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Michel Godard is a singular musician. One of his characteristics – for which he is clearly not responsible – is that he plays and records much more abroad than in France.

Germany and Italy are his main strongholds, and he is far from unknown in the Balkans. This is no doubt due to the fact that, not content with being an eclectic poly-instrumentalist (tuba, serpent & electric bass), he happily navigates between jazz, world music and early music, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

In a rather Cartesian Hexagon (France) that likes to put things and people in more or less hermetic boxes, this versatility and openness don’t seem very welcome. So much the worse for French listeners, who will hardly have had the opportunity to discover Godard within his quartet Tuba Tuba (two tubas, accordion and percussion), the group he formed with American electric bassist Steve Swallow and baroque instrumentalists, his duo with Italian drummer-percussionist Francesco D’Auria or with Egyptian oud player Ihab Radwan, the European group Cousins germains with German and Austrian musicians, and much more…

As for the present CD, Godard‘s last, recorded in February 2023, we can only hope that it will appeal to programmers of French clubs, venues and festivals, for the music it offers is magnificent.

It has to be said that Godard‘s partner in this duo isn’t just anyone: Italian vocalist Cristina Zavalloni is one of the great voices of transalpine jazz and, like the French blower who accompanies her, she doesn’t limit herself to jazz-jazz but frequently delves into the margins of the ternary idiom.

Zavalloni is first and foremost a voice!

This may seem obvious for a singer, but her range of expression is particularly wide and impressive. A dazzling tessitura, for a start: from the lowest growls to the highest bird-like chirps. Then there’s her phrasing flexibility, which allows her to launch into the most unbridled improvisations, as well as tackling a pianissimo ballad or intoning an adventurous scat with bluffing contrasts of pitch and dynamics. Finally, her vertiginous rhythmic placement allows her to dare all manner of audacity.

Godard and Zavalloni (who have known each other for a long time but had never recorded together before) have clearly found each other, and their duet is truly magical.

Indeed, Godard‘s tuba and serpent have eminently vocal qualities, and he doesn’t just provide a low-pitched pulse in support of his partner. No: Godard sings with his two instruments, and the sonorities he draws from them are sometimes unheard-of. So, two magicians have met, and if Godard‘s attraction to Italian female voices is not new (he has collaborated in the past with Linda Bsiri, his ex-wife, and with the extraordinary vocalist Lucilla Galeazzi), we can only hope that this new dream duo will last a long time and cross the Alps to our good old country.

Line Up:

Cristina Zavalloni: voice

Michel Godard: tuba, serpent

Twisted was released by Encore Music, June 2, 2023.

©Photos Barbara Rigon

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