This is one of those albums that is so out there it’s hard to get a handle on. You don’t believe us?
Try thinking of Stairway To Heaven played on an accordion, and if that gives you pause for thought, we’ve not even mentioned it segueing into Kashmir.
Peirani, (38), is an is an award-winning French jazz accordionist and composer. He began on the accordion aged 11, took up classical clarinet a year later, studied clarinet and solfège at the Conservatoire de Paris and has won numerous awards; in 2014, Peirani was awarded the Frank Ténot prize of the Victoires du Jazz as the “instrumental revelation”.
The sleeve notes say he is equally at home in world music, classical or pop.
The CD, which is out on jazz label ACT, opens with an instrumental cover of Sonny Bono’s Bang Bang, more akin to the Nancy Sinatra version heard on Kill Bill than the original. It’s a good song and this is a cool cover, the band opting for gentleness. A couple of originals follow. They’re very French and rooted in the folk world; Enzo is as cool as the opener, with Peirani on accordina and a flute sound (synth we guess), and atmospheric, gentle guitar/drum. The jerky and more classical Le Clown Sauveur De La Fête Foraine is folkier, reminding us of French punk folksters Lo’Jo. He heads across La Manche next, for a version of What Power Art Thou by Henry Purcell (from the opera King Arthur), the original an atmospheric Restoration piece with vocals.
Then comes the one you’re waiting for: Kashmir To Heaven. The opening bars, possibly accordina, are not easily recognisable, more noodling round the theme, and it’s only about two minutes in that it sounds familiar. Peirani says he wants his band to be a “chamber rock music orchestra” and he has a good bash; it’s not just a cheesy classical cover of a rock standard. Peirani anticipates Kashmir with an eastern-tinged section that nods to Robert Plant’s love of African music, the drums gradually pounding as Kashmir comes in. As with Stairway, he avoids the obvious, the famous riff only arriving half way through a five-minute track, leading to a faithful cover of the original for the rest, though it’s synth not guitar. Having shown his hand, track seven is Stairway as we know it, with keys and bass and a dreamier quality than the original. The vocal section is taken by Peirani and his accordion. About a minute before the end, the swirling world of Kashmir returns.
The title track follows, another original, an insistent bass (we think) underpinning slower accordion, before the drums arrive and it turns into a piece that’s more prog than jazz. K2000 is snare-heavy, proggy and short.
It’s an interesting programme that takes a little getting used to; the insistence that we should be paying attention to his creativity and ignoring the famous tunes takes some getting used to, and his own compositions are more effective for that reason. Still, fans of the accordion, prog rock, the wilder end of easy listening jazz — and Zep fans who can banish thoughts of the house band from Last of the Summer Wine doing covers — might find much to enjoy.
The sleeve art is by Olafur Eliasson. Out on ACT, 9858-2.