Vincent Peirani is a jazz musician who is equally at home in world music, or classical music, chanson or pop. Yet what the listener will hear from his new album is that he has transformed the accordion into the baddest of rock 'n' roll axes. On “Night Walker” the Frenchman shines. His quintet with extensive experience of playing together produces fiery Led Zeppelin covers and has a sound that not only crosses genres but is also completely unique.
The accordionist and composer is celebrated throughout Europe, something that was already the case before he made his debut as leader with the 2013 album “Thrill Box” - Peirani was winning prizes in France as a teenager. Later he earned the title “Artist of the Year” from “Jazz Magazine”, and has received a German ECHO Jazz award four times, most recently in 2016 for his highly acclaimed duo album “Tandem” with pianist Michael Wollny. At the beginning of 2015 the “once-in-a-century talent” (Fono Forum) released his first work with a new quintet “Living Being”, the same title being used for both the band and their album. The members are Emile Parisien, saxophone, Tony Paeleman, keyboards, Julien Herné, electric bass & guitar, Yoann Serra, drums. “We were friends long before we started playing together,” says Peirani, “This band feels like family.”
This special family has now recorded a triumphal second album: “Living Being II - Night Walker”. The Roman numerals look back to Led Zeppelin: “'Led Zeppelin I',' Led Zeppelin II' and so on...” says Peirani. “I liked that. This album also means a kind of upgrade: new music, new direction, and a new identity.”
Recorded in just four days in March 2017 in Brussels, “Night Walker” shows the quintet channelling its energies even more powerfully and consistently. The mix by sound engineer Boris Darley took several months of experimentation to get it right. As Peirani says,” it was like being in a musical laboratory.” Whether seen from a jazz or a pop perspective, the combination of instruments is unique.
In fact, all of the melody instruments in Living Being are created equal: Tony Paeleman's rich Fender Rhodes, sometimes earth-shuddering, sometimes feathery and light-heartedly jubilant; Emile Parisien's bright soprano saxophone – the tenor stayed in its case this time – and of course the wonderfully varied accordion of the Peirani. Unlike his previous album, the leader hardly ever puts himself in the foreground.
“This album is more of a collective trip,” explains Peirani. “The accordion is even less at the centre. It is only if you were to remove it that you would realize quite how much has suddenly gone missing.” The art of Vincent Peirani is to play rhythmically and at the service of the tune, adding layers to each piece, as others could only attempt with a vast array of keyboards. The melancholy of chanson, the elegance of classical music, the sheer power of rock – Peirani’s virtuosity pulls them all together.
Living Being take a kid-glove approach as they start off the album; the quintet plays Sonny Bono's “Bang Bang”, immortalized by Nancy Sinatra, with the tenderest possible feel, giving this cover a completely new lightness.
On “Enzo”, which starts with mellifluous charm, Peirani plays the accordina – similar to a melodica – and bassist Herné can be heard on the guitar for the first time. Peirani's powerful version of the aria “What Power Art Thou” by the English composer Henry Purcell, from the 1691 opera “King Arthur”, preserves the triumphal power of the original, yet could hardly be further removed.
The pivotal point of the album is the three-section “Kashmir To Heaven”, which references the two songs of the legendary hard rock band Led Zeppelin that are the probably the best known. The energy levels in the band, as it carefully builds this mini-suite, are quite staggering. Living Being remains true to the vibe of the originals but with a completely different instrumentation: there isn't a guitar in sight.
Peirani explains that the choice of songs to cover reflects his own preferences: “Many years ago I had a solo project mixing the songs of Deep Purple and Rage Against The Machine. Those songs of the seventies have always fascinated me, and everyone in the band loves Led Zeppelin. Their songs contain so much nourishing material for us - we all really enjoy sinking our teeth into it!”
When Vincent Peirani says his band wants to be a 'chamber rock music orchestra', it may sound like “Rock meets Classic” bombast. But Living Being, this powerful beast of a jazz band, is exactly the opposite. It is a supple little animal that moves elegantly on any terrain without ever leaving the path, but can grow into a muscular carnivore at any time. “Living Being II - Night Walker” is the proof – it's the both the most delicate and the most powerful album of the year.