Camille Bertault and David Helbock are two of the most jaw-droppingly talented members of the cohort of European jazz musicians currently in their mid-thirties. Their journeys in improvised music are always adventurous, playful and exciting. She is the rising star of French vocal jazz. He, Austrian-born, is one of the most fascinating pianists on the scene. Their personalities appear to be polar opposites, yet Bertault’s live-wire humour and Helbock’s calm self-assuredness only appear different on the surface. When it comes to the musical choices they make, they are emphatically on the same page. Each is astonishingly versatile, with an innate sense of dramaturgy. This voicepiano duo reaches unbelievable levels of inventiveness here on “Playground”.
“We both love Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal, Björk and Monk,” Helbock explains. “We also wanted a classical piece.” The duo found the initial repertoire to explore and to spread their musical wings with relative ease. Bertault’s vocal artistry is hers and hers alone. Her voice is a magnificent instrument to carry a melody, whether at breakneck speed and with devastating precision or at pindrop volume. Helbock’s creativity, as he exploits all the sound possibilities of the grand piano, is completely ‘sui generis’ as well. He dampens the piano strings, he plays directly on them, he uses the piano case as a percussion instrument, he makes use of electronics. And “Playground” is the first time he has worked with loops.
His accompaniment therefore has an almost orchestral scale and depth, a jewel-case for this scintillating and very special voice. The pair have written seven new numbers for the album: we hear the whimsical blues of “Lonely Supamen”, the mysterious “Fabelwesen”, the chanson-esque “Aide-moi” and the ethereal-melancholic “Bizarre”.
“Playground” is a kaleidoscope of sounds and emotions which invigorates, excites – and will always surprise. The craft and technique may be breathtaking, but neither musician ever forgets the essential: “It’s not about showing strength or virtuosity, but about expressing the truth of the moment,” says Camille Bertault. And that is what she and David Helbock have delivered with each and every track.