Accordion and soprano saxophone might sound like an unusual pairing, but as two reed instruments they complement each other to perfection. Following in the footsteps of Richard Galliano and Michel Portal who revisited the Tango and World Jazz repertoire with the same instruments on two seminal albums (Blow Up in 1997 and Concerts in 2004), Vincent Peirani (accordion) and Emile Parisien (soprano saxophone) literally breathe new life into this singular format with Belle Époque (2014), their début recording as a duo.

Peirani & Parisien Duo Art - Belle Époque (2014)
Peirani & Parisien Duo Art – Belle Époque (2014)

Still in their early thirties and based in Paris, both musicians share a passion for musical exploration and sonic experimentation in the jazz idiom. Vincent Peirani through recent and noteworthy collaborations with Korean singer Youn Sun Nah, Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius or with his début solo album Thrill Box in 2013. Emile Parisien through his work with his own highly original quartet. Peirani and Parisien first met in 2009 following an invitation from veteran Swiss-born drummer Daniel Humair to play with his quartet. Extensive touring and one recording (Sweet & Sour – 2012) led to the formation of the duo.

Originally intended as an homage to clarinet and soprano saxophone legend Sidney Bechet (“Egyptian Fantasy” and “Song of the Medina [Casbah]” get a total makeover here), Belle Époque also revisits other classics (Duke Ellington’s “Dancers in Love”, Henry Lodge’s “Temptation Rag” or Mills Irving’s “St James Infirmary”) and introduces four new compositions.

The CD title Belle Époque refers to the period between the early 1870s and the start of World War I in France which coincided with an era of peace, prosperity and artistic freedom. The same carefree attitude in Peirani and Parisien’s playing comes across wonderfully in the recording featuring many a musical cat and mouse chase between the roaring bass notes of the accordion and the communicative buoyancy of the saxophone.

The near ecstatic live performance of “Song of Medina [Casbah]” for instance is a joy to watch:

The creation of this repertoire plunged us into a state of euphoria and lightness, fusing our influences going from popular music to the composers of the early XXth century, from Jazz of course to World Music.  All these elements combined echo a certain mindset, a time when people were having fun, were careless, curious, and happy to discover new things. In other words: la Belle Époque.  Vincent Peirani & Emile Parisien – Cover notes

Belle Époque was released in March 2014 on the Act Music record label.