(Bonsai Music BONS160502. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)
The striking immediacy of the trumpet and flugelhorn playing of Sardinian master Paolo Fresu shows the profound influence of Miles Davis combined with Mediterranean lyricism. His list of associates include Carla Bley, Piero Umiliani, Ralph Towner, and Sheila Jordan. His latest project is a collaboration with pianist Omar Sosa. Cuban-born Sosa relocated to San Francisco and then Barcelona, and has played with the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, John Santos and Trilok Gurtu. Also on board for this CD are the Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and Egyptian-Belgian singer Natacha Atlas.
The album opens with a cover version of Massive Attack’s anthem Teardrop. It is slowed down, blissed-out and reconceived as a piece of minimalist and dismantled electronica, with Sosa using electric keyboards, samplers and effects. And Natacha Atlas sings the lyrics in Arabic. The effect is even more hypnotic than the original, and it has the keen advantage of Fresu’s clean, piercing trumpet to guide and emphasise the piece. Sensuousness features a credible replica of Tuvan throat singing and a melancholy exploration of its theme by Fresu.
Zeus’ Desires has a bouncing beat, with blossoming, rolling Fender Rhodes, set against the more angular gradient of the violins — Anton Berovski and Sonia Peana of the Quartetto Alborada. The string quartet continue to enthral on Brezza del Verano, also featuring Nico Ciricugno on viola and Piero Savatori on cello. Omar Sosa scatters notes across the piece but it’s Fresu who keeps moving it forward with his plangent, reverberant, pre-electric Miles style playing. My Soul, My Spirit features Atlas again and is like a secular call to worship, her voice being gently lowered on a cushion created by the string section. La Llamada (‘The Call’) is a slow-paced, pulsing piece shaped by Sosa’s keyboards and effects, with Fresu playing a dreamlike horn, and succinct, otherworldly interjections in the form of sighing, slanting phrases from the strings. What Is Inside / Himeros begins in the same dreamy, delicate vein, but Sosa builds a fierce, echoing pulse, with fleeting telegraph-key Morse-code taps on the keyboards, building up the feeling of electric-era Miles, not least in Fresu’s performance. In the measured, ambient landscape of Who Wu, with Sosa keeping a tic-tac suggestion of a military drum, Fresu comes and goes in a manner reminiscent of summer lightning before the thunder hits, while the sudden jagged violin is like a can opener lifting the lid on your mind. Why is notable for jovial, lyrical sawing strains on the cello by Jaques Morelenbaum.
Forsaking a conventional rhythm section, this is an unusual and curiously effective group, with a distinctive 21st Century sound that creates a uniform mood without repeating itself or losing the interest of the listener. It has a silky surface which makes for “easy” listening, but also a complexity and depth which repays attention. And, incidentally, when the CD appears to be over...it isn’t. After a minute or two of silence there is an extended “ghost track” which features some great playing.