Madeleine & Salomon: “Music is our only weapon”

If you listen to the music of Madeleine & Salomon, everything suddenly makes sense. Everything French that is; from the concept of the ‘exception culturelle’ to the stereotype of sophisticated people engaging in long theoretical conversations, to the fact that France has been a haven for jazz – and a refuge for American jazz musicians – since the ’30s. It is this culture that spawned Madeleine & Salomon, a.k.a. singer and flutist Clotilde Rullaud and pianist Alexandre Saada, their moniker being a combination of their respective middle names. Despite the deceptive simplicity of the voice-flute-piano setting, the duet has managed to create a dense sound, built on intricate, daring arrangements, intense performances, and a minimalistic approach to jazz and to the classic American songbook, which is the theme of their current album, A Woman’s Journey’.

What is ‘A Woman’s Journey’?

‘A Woman’s Journey’ is an homage to the humanist and rebellious repertoire of the great American female protest singers, enriched on stage by free improvisations inspired by dreamlike short films.

How did you choose the songs?

Through this collection of songs we aim to talk about freedom, ecology, self-esteem, equality, all those universal subjects that are important to us. It was important for us to respect diversity. We wanted to focus on women and womanhood.

We started the repertoire with a few clearly identified songs that we already had in mind. Then we spent a few months digging on the internet, listening to as many things as possible, sharing links and talking about it. We finally collected the songs that were touching us equally with their words and their music. So we could really make them our own and bring our own singular touch into it.

What is the significance of this project in the current cultural, political and social context?

This project deals with subjects that were big issues in America from the ’30s to the ’70s and the female singers at that time raised their voices, trying to change things with their singing. If some people may have been thinking that these issues were solved nowadays, Donald Drumpf’ s America and the #metoo movement show that it’s not the case. So by covering these songs, we raise our voices too, and keep on trying to open consciousnesses with music, which is our only weapon.

How would you describe your relationship?

Our relationship is based on a mutual understanding and a deep respect of our differences and liberty. Since we’ve been long-term friends, we know each other pretty well, and sometimes our communication is almost telepathic. We think this can be heard in our music.

If you were to turn your act into a trio, who would you want to work with?

That’s a good question. We’re actually pretty happy with the way we interact as a duo, and the equilibrium we found. So we would probably add a visual dimension: a painter or a dancer. We have actually already collaborated with a dancer and we loved it!

Who are your heroes?

Alexandre: Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

Clotilde: Angela Davis, Simone de Beauvoir and Simone Weil.

How did you get into jazz?

Alexandre: I started with classical music and got into jazz step by step.

Clotilde: My father was a radio lover, listening to the French National Public Radio all the time. They had a great eclectic program with actually lots of Jazz. So I think I got into it from day one. Plus my first flute teacher was playing jazz and when I was about 12 I bought my first record. It was an Ella Fitzgerald one.

What does jazz mean to you?

Alexandre: Freedom.

Clotilde: Revolution and Improvisation; a constant renewal.

Clotilde, in your bio you mention that when you were little, you wanted to be “either a singer or a psychoanalyst” when you would grow up; what is the similarities between the two?

To me, being a great singer means being interested in Humankind, society and human evolution; what makes humanity slow down or grow. You need to be empathetic, to be able to put your feet into other peoples shoes, to feel the audience, to listen to others breathing. I suppose a great psychoanalyst needs to have the same attributes.

What has being a singer taught you about the human psyche?


Which song best describes your current state of mind?

Alexandre: Come on Eileen

Clotilde: I get around

Madeleine & Salomon are currently on a tour around Australia, which culminates with a performance at the Jazz Lab, in Melbourne on Wednesday 14 March.