The Israeli jazz pianist pays tribute to her mentor Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou at the Fondation Cartier on Wednesday and Thursday. Portrait of a militant artist with an African rhythm.
She weighs her every word. Place a silence between each sentence. She says a lot while saying little. Almost logorrheic music and parsimonious speech. She seems to gauge her interlocutor while talking about her journey. No frills. Also, Maya Dunietz fascinates. His first solo album, Free the Dolphin, produces the same effect. An exquisite six-track produced by his compatriot the beatmaker Rejoicer, who is none other than the spouse and sidekick of his sister singer, KerenDun, within the Buttering Trio. Whoever co-founded the Raw Tapes label also produced I Asked You a Question, the eccentric debut album by Israeli jazz pianist Nitai Hershkovits beat scene from LA …), traveling companion of bassist Avishai Cohen (especially on the wonder that is his album Elf). Moreover, it is another Avishai Cohen that we find alongside Maya Dunietz. The trumpeter is invited to the piece Odetta where he indulges in a very sensual languor. Other guest: David Lemoine, voice of the French group Cheveu, on The Wine of Love. “I told Rejoicer that I was itching to compose and put on a trio. He took me by the hand and we started, at the end of 2019, with the bassist Barak Mori and the drummer Amir Bresler ”, summarizes the musician, met during a visit to Paris at the beginning of the summer. No more no less. And to think that she loves stride, an ultra-prolix jazz style. His record reveals it through a few bursts of the track bop Shtyner.
She adds that she loves the blues, which her father listened to. The latter was convinced, like his mother, that his daughter’s soul needed music. In Tel Aviv, where it was born in 1981, American pop music is everywhere. During her childhood, the young Maya does not let herself be captivated for all that. At the age of 10, she studied classical piano with the composer Keren Rosenbaum, who opened up other worlds to her. And then, in the 90s, traditional Jewish music, which draws from Morocco, Algeria, Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. There was born his interest in African rhythms. Those of the north, the west, the south, and above all, the east. Where the Great Lakes whisper. His record reveals it again, from start to finish. And that, by the percussions which crosses it and the digressive game of a pianist who taps on the keys rather than brushes them. The one who stayed in Cuba to try his hand at batá (Yoruba drum), played with a Zimbabwean group all over Europe, with saxophonist John Zorn in New York and even in salsa orchestras, invites us to move fully.
She is mentored by the Ethiopian pianist Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, born in 1923. “It’s my grandmother. I adopted her. “ It’s on one of the records in the series Ethiopic of Francis Falceto that she discovers it and finds herself obsessed by “His timeless pieces“; before learning that this relative of Haile Selassié has been living since the 1980s in a monastery in Jerusalem. Two years after their first meeting, in 2011, an intimate and musical relationship began between the two. “She called me straight up by phone. ” Maya Dunietz then spent months deciphering her written pieces, in a disorderly fashion, on piles of manuscripts housed in plastic bags. A marvelous archaeological mess that will become a book in two volumes, now out of print.
The extraordinary story of Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Maya Dunietz knows it by heart. From his childhood in boarding school to his learning of the violin and the piano, passing by the flight from his native country during the second Italo-Ethiopian conflict in the mid-1930s. “She talks like a queen. She is a modest drama queen over 90 years old. She helped me to trust myself as a pianist. ” And to add: “His music has a classical structure but the accent of his compositions comes from another space-time. It combines different patterns that overlap in a minimalist way. There is also a sweet sincerity and truth in what she plays. Listening to it means finding yourself curled up in cotton. ” In Free the Dolphin, Dunietz plays so much with «impressions» inherited from Guèbrou than with jazz or what it should be.
Elsewhere in the disc, it takes over the standard Lover Man, whose harmonies she varies, influenced as she is also by Mal Waldron, Mary Lou Williams, Ahmad Jamal or even Thelonious Monk. Hence the chiaroscuro tint of his project, where the sun’s rays mingle with the moonlight. The whole is a set of vibrations sometimes fragile, sometimes vigorous, made of modal forms, of pentatonic colors. As if Dunietz gave birth to sound molecules, modeled variegated matter. We must therefore recall his attachment to plastic art and sound installations. What matters to her is that “The music she tries to make invites a deep listening”.
“With music, we can find solutions to conflicts”
This is, moreover, the starting point of his socio-political activism. As a teenager, she dreamed of being on the lookout for democracy, playing the journalist at 16 for a magazine intended for the youth of Tel Aviv. Then she traveled, ending up in Zimbabwe where she met her «soul sister», the singer Chiwoniso Maraire to whom she dedicates this first project. And when asked about the age at which she started studying the piano, she quotes composer Moondog: “I never stopped.” Then she smiles and launches laconically: “5 years.” We come back to his activism. The pianist returns to her music. “It is with music that we can find solutions to the conflicts that cross our world. Whoever listens must be active, alert, flexible, let his mind discover new places without precaution. ” Will she talk about this Israeli-Palestinian conflict? We wait. A white one. Two white. “Through my music I try, as much as possible, to bring peace to my own country, to end the occupation, apartheid and the horrible things that are happening in the name of a religion. “ Here we are. “However, my fight is not just about Israel. I am not a nationalist. Yes, I was born in Tel Aviv. It’s at my house. But I do not claim to have the answer to everything. It must be said that my point of view rhymes with privilege. I am sitting there, on this sofa, in Paris, being interviewed. Also, I take my hat off to the fighters, those who roam the streets, everywhere else. ” She fights using her piano. Besides, Free the Dolphin ? She answers : «A jazz thing.»
Maya Dunietz, Free the Dolphin, Raw Tapes.
Maya Dunietz plays Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (Paris), July 21 and 22.
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