In “Voices”, Mathieu Saglio, with his quartet and a fascinating roster of guest vocal soloists from many countries, follows a bold dream. “Voices” builds on the success and the momentum of Saglio’s previous ACT album “El Camino de los Vientos'' (2020), a 'varied musical journey through the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia.'(JAZZTHETIK). Both Fono Forum and Stereo magazines in Germany made “El Camino” an album of the month, and Jazz-Rhone-Alpes had it as their best album of the year. France-Musique's Nathalie Piolé called it "an album you never tire of listening to,” and her opinion has been completely validated by the streaming statistics for the past three years: plays of tracks from “El Camino” on Spotify are now over 7 million.
At the heart of both “El Camino" and "Voices" is the cello playing of the “talented and charismatic” (Songlines) Matthieu Saglio, who is also composer and producer. Originally from Rennes in France, he has lived in the creative cauldron of Valencia for the past two decades. His playing functions as what he calls a 'fil directeur' (guiding thread) through the album. As soloist, time and time again on "Voices", he manages to find exactly the right comment or embellishment as a response to what one of the vocal soloists has just done. Then, when he steps away from the limelight and accompanies, he can draw on a huge range of the new techniques with chords and basslines which he has developed for the cello; these give him myriad ways to anchor and propel the music. Saglio is also thrilled to be working with what has now become a regular working quartet in the years since "El Camino: drummer/percussionist Steve Shehan, pianist/keyboardist Christian Belhomme and violinist Léo Ullmann. Of the quartet, the cellist says: "They are three truly extraordinary musicians, the perfect companions to bring my compositions to life.”
In “Voices”, Saglio’s ambition is “to pay tribute to the voices of the world, of men, women, of all ages, of all languages... the voice as the essence of humanity...which at the same time brings people together and unifies them.” For “Voices” Saglio sent out invitations to vocalists, attaching a melody written by him which he could imagine them singing. He then embarked on a dialogue with each one, the whole process being done remotely. Incidentally, Saglio’s vision, fostering remote collaborations in this way, already stood out as remarkable in “Camino”: that whole album was achieved before the pandemic, which has now made such ways of working much more commonplace. The opening track sets a tone of idealism, imagining the kind of society in which we would all like to live, using a recording of Nelson Mandela: 'A democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities'. "I was really happy to open this album with Mandela’s words," says Saglio.
Each of the very different collaborations on “Voices” brings its rewards. Veteran Peruvian Susana Baca, the first singer in Saglio’s dream team to be approached, fills every one of the sparse words of “Ponte un Alma'' with significance and resonance. Egyptian-Belgian singer Natacha Atlas has written her own lyric for the beguiling, hypnotic “Amâl”. Flamenco singer Anna Colom enchants in “Divina Tormenta” with a Spanish translation of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Green”. Senegalese legend Wasis Diop’s intensely rhythmic speech-singing commentary in “Temps Modernes” is an art form in its own right. Alim Qasimov is a legend in his native Azerbaijan. "To have him on the record really was one of my impossible dreams,” says Saglio. "I found his contact details with help from a German Festival who had recorded a concert with him, and went from there..." Saglio was thrilled to work with Nils Landgren: "He is such a great musician, and I have also completely fallen in love with his unique way of singing ballads, and the beautiful lyrics he put to my composition.” If the soloists on “Voices” might start to sound like an extended, world-encompassing family, Saglio’s real-life family is also involved: on “Irta” we hear the countertenor and voice-trumpet timbres of his younger brother Camille. “He genuinely has invented a new language and brings an extraordinary sense of musical freedom,” comments Matthieu Saglio with both respect and brotherly affection.
With “Voices”, Matthieu Saglio has once again taken what might seem an impossible dream to bring people together through music and made it work brilliantly. His compositions become the vehicles to enable strong and unique musical personalities from all over the world to express themselves naturally and authentically. Saglio's imagination and his determination to make unlikely and magical things happen are a rare combination. Or as he explains: “I believe in dreams, and I run after them.”