After mastering virtuosity and humor, the violinist and pianist have changed course with Montevago, an album inspired by electronic textures, indie rock as well as the migration crisis, pushing their instruments to the limits more than ever before.
For the past ten years, Théo Ceccaldi and Roberto Negro’s collaboration in Paris has generated sparks on the European jazz scene. In addition to the violinist and pianist mixing it up in their respective groups or within the Tricollective ensemble, they form a duo that combines chamber music and jazz, erudition and derision. This was the case with the album Babies (2015), which was mainly improvised on stage, and then with the Danse de salon program, through which they challenged the tradition of minuets, jigs, and other quadrilles for two seasons. The latter project was supposed to be recorded. It was, without counting on the creativity that drives their brains, and that is doubled by their partnership. Two months before entering the studio, they changed course and sent folklore, virtuosity and irony flying. “Before summer, a particular concert revealed it to us; we didn’t want that anymore,” says Théo Ceccaldi. “We were tired of humor and wanted to move towards deeper, calmer, and purer things. When I leave a project, I often want to do the opposite, and Roberto is in the same state of mind. So we went back to the drawing board and started from scratch.”
“We are both composers, and we have no ego problems,” says Roberto Negro explaining that they started from the foundations to formulate proposals that were then fine-tuned, modified, reworked, and finally agreed upon. “We decided on the concepts together,” Théo Ceccaldi confirms. They expressed their wishes in real time during the process. Theo sent Roberto pieces by Voï Voï and Flavien Berger, emphasizing his taste for minimalism and electronic textures. In return, Roberto introduced Théo to the song “3WW” by the London indie-rock trio alt-J. This explains the use of loops combined with the appearance of texts on “Zodiac Poisson,” a ritornello that hides an icy evocation of the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean. The violinist and the pianist continue to push their instruments to the limit, torturing their respective strings by all means to extract capabilities from them (such as tone and percussion) that were not thought to be possible. “This practice opens up so many possibilities that nothing is forbidden. In this way, we can put the listeners and ourselves in states of trance or contemplation,” explains Roberto Negro, who readies his piano, intending to impact “physically more than intellectually.”
This album, which is very architectural despite the improvisations that infiltrate its structures — punctuated by a habanera and a tarantella — and can be compared to the whimsical Tyondai Braxton (on “Romeo Rodeo”), was completed with an urgency that spurred its creators’ inventiveness. Montevago is named after a crumbling palace on the heights of Palermo. Roberto Negro and Théo Ceccaldi shot a video and staged the visuals here, posing under gold decorations in incongruous positions. These two iconoclastic musicians never remain serious for long.
Théo Ceccaldi and Roberto Negro, Montevago (Brouhaha / L’Autre Distribution)