A tuba-voice duet is not your everyday band,
but these two musicians always surprise—
and there’s no bigger compliment in my book.
Italian singer Cristina Zavalloni’s clear and
mobile voice crosses all possible genre and
practice boundaries. She teaches jazz and
improvisation, but she’s also a celebrated
performer of contemporary music, such as
her long-standing collaboration with Louis
Andriessen. Her curiosity has often brought
her into uncharted territory, from children’s
songs to film soundtracks. French tuba (and
serpent) specialist Michel Godard has followed
a similar path: his work as an interpreter of
ancient and baroque music has been crossfertilized
by his improvisational experiences
and encounters with non-European traditions
(e.g. Kudsi Erguner and Rabih Abou-Khalil).
The pair met after Zavalloni released her first
jazz album, and the idea of a duo grew from a
fortuitous encounter that led to a series of live
Dedicated to “Twisted” vocalist Annie Ross,
this album is a trove of surprises. A rather glib
but not untrue description of Zavalloni’s vocals
could be: Annie Ross meets Cathy Berberian.
Improvisations based on texts in different
languages and focusing on timbral variations
rub shoulders with grooves and melodies. Most
of the short tracks—the whole album clocks
under 30 minutes—are penned by the musicians
themselves, with some contributions by
Godard’s late wife and musical partner, Linda
Bsiri. The exception is the title tune, twisted
all over again with great virtuosity and fun. At
times the music sounds timeless, an imaginary
form of ancient music; other times it’s more
corrosive and jumpy, marked by a sense of
theatrical humor, lightning-quick changes of
direction and flashing references. Instrumental and vocal timbres are captured with great
clarity, without effects, which transmits the
feeling of live performance. The two inhabit
different areas of the auditory spectrum, but
they still intertwine to create a dialogue across
the gap, thanks to judicious usage of electronics
and additional instruments. Voice and tuba
answer each other’s twists and turns like playful
birds in flight, or acrobats without a safety net,
keeping the listener on the edge.
Francesco Martinelli  
Encore Music: