Matthieu Michel is anxious. On this Friday 4th of Novembre 2017, he’s rehearsing at the HEMU (Haute Ecolde de Musique de Lausanne) for a project he’s composed and orchestrated for six students and the guitarist Nguyên Lê to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Jazz Onze + Festival.
Matthieu Michel is one of those artists who manages to draw out prodigious sounds conveying a myriad of emotions as soon as he breathes into his instrument. For many years he’s been recognized internationally as one of the best jazz trumpeters of his time, Matthieu Michel could be a prominent musician who releases records on prestigious labels and graces the covers of the music press. But instead, at the age of 54, Matthieu Michel is of unfailing modesty and humility, the last to be aware of his talent and quality of his work. While everyone sees him as a visionary composer, he prefers to define himself as "a Sunday composer", playing the sideman here and there. His record releases are as rare as they are discreet.
The musical world of Nguyên Lê
Nguyên Lê, French guitarist of Vietnamese origin, is a master in making the most diverse sounds with his electric guitar and armada of pedals, sounds capable of reproducing his traditional homeland instruments, similar to playing around with distortion effects. Matthieu Michel invited him to participate in this collaboration because he has been acquainted with him for twenty years. "When I have to write and I know who I'm doing it for, it gives me ideas. I know the musical world that Nguyên Lê will bring and that helps me” he explains very simply. With the exception of the two drummers François Christe and Nathan Vandenbulcke, Matthieu Michel had not met the musicians of this HEMU Jazz Orchestra beforehand, hence his apprehension before the big day.
The next day, Saturday the 4th of November, on the Paderewski stage, the ensemble is ready and attacking with vigor. The trumpet and guitar along with many pedal effects set the mood as the students build and deconstruct the musical movements.
Always stimulating and innovative, Matthieu Michel’s compositions evoke a flurry of sensations: nostalgia, worry, joy, enthusiasm, tension. For over one and a half hours the audience navigates between these diverse, sometimes contradictory feelings, sometimes felt simultaneously clashing with one another. The pieces are long and the musicians’ attention and listening is palpable, marked by some gestural indications from Matthieu Michel. Since the latter also has a sense of humour, he has entitled some of these pieces "Onze+ 09", "Onze+ 10", "Onze+ 15". For the encore, Matthieu Michel finishes on what he calls his global hit, L'Oriental, where he invites two of his former students to play the trumpet to further increase the power of his decidedly intense musical discourse.
The collaboration HEMU Jazz Orchestra feat. Matthieu Michel and Nguyên Lê took place on Saturday 4th November in Lausanne at the Casino Montbenon, Paderewski Hall, as part of the Jazz Onze + Festival.
Pictures by Michel Bertholet www.mibphotographie.ch