Mediterraneo is an exhilarating romp around the Mediterranean with excursions to Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Middle East and northern Africa. Paris Jazz Big Band presents an aural travelogue with finesse and plenty of muscle. The band, supplied with original pieces written by Pierre Bertrand and Nicholas Folmer, sounds extremely lithe as the composers guide them through different musical terrains. The band is extremely tight in execution. This is a jazz big band of high caliber.
The album starts with a lively, multi-textured Spanish-inflected piece called ‘Buleria’ that takes off with an abrupt horn section before descending into concise solos. Louis Weinberg then provides a guitar solo inspired from flamenco sources and punctuated by bold stabs from the horn section. Derived from the work of Astor Piazzola, ‘Heavy Tango’ relies on the remarkable accordion playing of Richard Galliano. ‘Miro’ is a sensitive, Impressionistic piece. Herve Meschinet’s flute sounds as airy and as light as a cloud floating over a French countryside. The mood continues on ‘Cataluna’ with an extended trombone solo by Denis Leloup, although the weather feels like it is starting to change. Could there be raindrops on the horizon? The weather sounds positively bitter on ‘Escota.’
Weinberg and pianist Alfio Orgilio play a gorgeous duet of sorts on ‘Haute de Cagnes’. This brilliant miniature sounds both subtle and supple. This contrasts with the chaotic extravagance of ‘Impatience’ as it zooms through the twilight backstreets of Rome then pours into the bustling roundabouts of the monumental and eternal city.
‘Little Mama’ is a moody piece that features Stephane Chausse on clarinet. A Middle Eastern blues? This sets up a masterful piece that is homage to Jochen Kreutzer, courtesy of Meschinet this time on alto saxophone. The scale is Ellingtonian and the sensitivity Strayhorn. The album ends with ‘Berboucka,’ that relies on exotic northern African rhythms with punctuated with the brash brass sounds of contemporary jazz.
"Mediterraneo" is a jewel of an album. Highly recommended.