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Andy Emler & Jean-François Zygel @ Le Triton (Les Lilas) 02/11/23

It’s always impressive to see two grand pianos head to toe especially on a small stage. And when we know that their stools will be occupied by Andy Emler and Jean-François Zygel we guess that hearing them will be equally impressive.

The concert begins gently with a little melody on a repetitive rhythm that swells as the theme unfolds. It is Emler, an old regular at the Triton, who welcomes his colleague who is coming for the first time in this place and one feels that the conviviality between the two musicians – who know each other well – is very present.

Emler confines himself at the beginning in the role of rhythmician, leaving Zygel to improvise melodically and quickly the two voices mix without one being able to clearly distinguish the role of each one. We rarely hear Emler play such singing melodies and he is obviously very comfortable with them.

For the second piece it is Zygel who launches the melody soliciting all the extent of the keyboard with a sumptuous touch and a telluric rhythmic base on which Emler joins him. It is here the rhythm that dominates and the two keyboards rumble in chorus before a small alert melody emerges to calm the game.

The mutual listening of the two pianists is impressive and one feels that each one gives the other a space to express himself. Emler makes it clear that this is a meeting without a net and launches a playful rhythm on which Zygel comes to lay down a dancing melody, then the two instruments launch into a strongly cadenced duet where it is again under Zygel‘s fingers that the melody is born.

Even if the roles are not clearly defined, one feels that Emler is more concerned with rhythm while Zygel is more inclined towards melody. This is undoubtedly related to the training of each: rather jazz for Emler, rather classical for Zygel. But these two languages are not limiting and the possibility of dialogue is obvious.

On a slow tempo launched by Zygel, Emler grafts an eminently melodic right hand and the glances that the two pianists exchange say enough about how they expect each other, seek each other out and meet. We know Emler‘s admiration for Maurice Ravel and it is to him that we think several times on this beautiful piece. A field where the two musicians share the same influence.

Then they go to look for sounds in the soundboard, forsaking momentarily the keyboards. It’s playful as hell and very repetitive, even noisy. It is then an Indian scale which is used as pretext to the improvisation which starts with a ritornello on five notes. The piece gradually takes shape with nuances from the piano to the forte and lyrical flights on this minimalist base that lead to a kind of dance swaying and catchy where the melody takes over.

Zygel then proposes a melody and tells EmlerYou do with it what you want“.

After letting Zygel play alone, Emler takes up this melody, harmonizing it and displaying its beauty. Then it is a four-handed game on the same piano that the two pianists indulge in with nods to “J’ai du Bon Tabac” and by sharing the keyboard, each taking turns on the bass and treble.

When they come back to their piano, it is for a slow piece that reminds us of Bach by its construction in canon before taking a fast turn that would bring it closer to repetitive music and then coming back to its base.

In total, a full house attended the meeting of two musicians that everything brings together and that it is rare to hear together. The pleasure was obviously shared on stage and in the public.

©Cover Photo, Jean-François Zygel by Denis Rouvre/ Naïve

©Photo Andy Emler, All Rights Reserved

Le Triton is located in “Les Lilas” (Paris)

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