Vocalist and flutist Clotilde and pianist Alexandre Saada form the jazz duo, Madeleine & Salomon. The two had known each other for years, but it was during a tour in 2014 that they discovered a shared creative approach. Their new album, “A Woman’s Journey” offers minimalist renditions of popular folk, jazz, and traditional songs that have the emotional appeal of poetry. The songs focus on the female experience. The sparse soundscapes invite audiences to pay attention to the words. “A Woman’s Journey” will be released Jan. 12, 2018.
“A Woman’s Journey” by Madeleine & Salomon
The duo’s approach to music-making is so unusual that it is even difficult to get to the disc. The matte CD cover opens to a bright red inside, where there is no disc. It is tucked into a thin opening on the side of the back cover. When the listener does find it, it is like finding an invitation to an avant-garde event. The song list and lyrics are on heavier paper than usually reserved for liner notes. I couldn’t help but think that it was all part of the mysterious cool that would be found on the album.
The Nina Simone ode to body positivity and self-esteem is presented here without instrumentation. Clotilde, a French vocalist, writer, composer, and flutist, actually approximates Simone’s vocal quality and rhythms. The result here is haunting. What is the cost then, for the woman who thinks her body has no value? The sustained note at the end is held for so long it takes on an instrument’s qualities and some listeners might forget that they are listening to a human voice. The song doesn’t mark itself with specific hallmarks of various time periods. Instead, the solo voice and the song’s unnamed, “she” stands in for countless women throughout the ages.
The Janis Ian folk classic is popular among jazz artists as of late. The storytelling qualities resonate well with artists that want to tell the story of women who don’t quite live up to the world’s beauty standards. Actually, the “women” of the song are girls – – girls without valentines and lovers. The song begins abruptly with Clotilde’s husky voice tinged with sadness. Soon, her voice is joined by Saada’s slightly and purposefully off-kilter piano. The song ends as abruptly as it begins, but at the end, the piano’s wavering, the pathos-driven note is the only sound.
Here again, Clotilde takes advantage of her strong lower register. Just when listeners think that there are no great depths of huskiness to plumb, she goes there. While there is no replacing Billie Holiday’s classic, this version by Madeleine & Salomon is also moving and makes clear what the song protests. Clotilde also stays true to the original’s phrasing. Regardless of who sings “Strange Fruit” the institution’s effect on American society is clear. That Clotilde brings the necessary solemnity to bear on the lyrics with the way she delivers lines is a triumph for this album.
“A Woman’s Journey” doesn’t shy away from darker subjects that mark a woman’s life. The minimalist soundscape and clear, yet artistic vocals make the release a standout album. With a total of 15 songs, listeners will get a fully realized idea of what the performers are trying to say about a woman’s life trajectory.