Renaud Garcia-Fons: La Linea del Sur (2009)

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Renaud Garcia-Fons: La Linea del Sur
What would happen if the dense yet lyrical imagery of Garcia Lorca's Romancero Gitano was woven into the aural tapestry of bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons' offering, that traverses Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and America? A bewitching mix of flamenco, Arabic, jazz and Latin-American music would collide, resulting in a perfect offering such as La Linea del Sur. This imaginary journey through the global south is truly mesmerizing.

From a compositional point of view, there is something else that is unusual about this record. Apart from the fact that it is Garcia-Fons' very personal journey, the impulse to adorn the music came from a series of heart-stopping photographs taken by Javier Arcenillas, moving the bassist to look deeply inward. How something so concrete and finite as a photograph could inspire the language of infinite metaphor such as music is simply a matter of duende, the nebulous magic that illuminates this recording with a glow that is at once cheerfully bright and darkly emotional.

Leading from the front is Garcia-Fons, a musician who appears to have renewed the language of the bass with almost microscopic attention to phrasing, texture and pulse. He is joined by flamenco guitarist, Kiko Ruiz. The group's percussionist, Pascal Rolando, is back after sitting out Arcoluz (Enja, 2008), and accordion master David Venitucci joins the quartet as the melodic second voice. Flamenco vocalist Esperanza Fernandez casts a magic spell on three tracks, with her exquisite Sufi interpretations of lyrics that could have been written by Persian poet/philosopher Rumi.

Here's another conundrum: most of the music—certainly "Caballera de mi Amor," "El Agua de la Vida" and "Enamorada"—is programmatic, yet appears to have been impossibly and thoughtfully expressed as completely improvised. The swing of jazz is ever-present in the underbelly of the music. Emotions, memories and myriad musical traditions meld into a singularly unique whole. Voices collide and undulate. Chief among them are the bass and the accordion, but guitar and multitudinous percussion are also present.

Garcia-Fons, whether playing con arco, pizzicato, or slapping the five strings of his bass with the bow to create sub-dominant dynamics, is all pervasive. The sophistication of his playing is born of a virtually unmatched virtuoso approach to his instrument. Venitucci's accordion is also ever-present as a voice that brightens the emotion of "Agua Dulce," while acting as sly co-conspirator with Fernandez as she joins Garcia-Fons to tint the hues of "Enamorada" with elemental melancholia. On other tracks— especially "Valseria" and "La Silhouette"—Garcia-Fons leads all his musicians together to realize his vision of the dreamy South.

What is this South? It is infinitely more than the geography of the aural adventure. It is the penetration of the interior landscape of the artist's mind and soul. Although skippered by Garcia-Fons, all of the musicians present here reach deep inside themselves. The result is a collective experience that is profound and thoroughly enjoyable.

Track Listing: La Linea del Sur; Caballera de mi Amor; Gare Saint Charles; Valseria; El Agua de la Vida; La Silhouette; Nada; Agua dulce; Cante del Barco; Vere; Enamorada.

Personnel: Renaud Garcia-Fons: 5-string double bass; David Venitucci: accordion; Kiko Ruiz: flamenco guitar; Pascal Rollando: percussion; Esperanza Fernandez: vocals (2, 5, 11).

Record Label: Enja Records

Style: Latin/World


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