Renaud Garcia-Fons: Entremundo (2004)
Bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons has a few tricks up his sleeve, some of which he reveals in due time on Entremundo. One is the fact that his instrument has five strings, and he makes use of the entire rangewhich means that a lot of his work sounds like it comes from a cello or even a violin. His playing, mostly bowed, has a rich, vibrant quality that tends to dominate his musicand in a good waywhether he's shredding, waxing lyrical, or engaging in measured discourse.
Garcia-Fons' first record, Legendes (Enja, 1993), presented him alone at the bass, and after a series of followups in different configurations, Entremundo sees him return to intimacy, this time alongside flamenco guitarist Antonio Ruiz and drummer/percussionist Jorge "Negrito" Transante. The music on Entremundo, as the title might imply, comes from all over the place: it's a gypsy excursion through folk and classical music of southwestern Europe and especially Andalusia, with Latin American, Indian, and Arabic influences thrown in for good measure.
While the core trio is responsible for most of what you'll hear on the record, it's augmented at times by seven other musicians playing everything from baroque lute to bansuri flute and cajon. It's pretty clear that Garcia-Fons, who composed and arranged everything on the record except for Ruiz's warmly romantic "40 Dias," had a master plan in mind when he put these eleven pieces together. They're tight, efficient, and cosmopolitan, and while improvisation is essential to making them work, they retain the focus and cohesion of chamber music. That's not to say there isn't plenty of emotional content, but it's channeled rather than vented. Old World charm all the way.
Telling the story of this music in a blow-by-blow fashion would be nearly impossible, since each piece contains its own detailed narrative. Some work better than others, due in part to occasional structural constriction, but your mileage on that front may vary and it's never for long. The passion of flamenco colors much of this work and many minor melodies reflect melismatic Arabic hues, but these things are usually embedded in new contexts unlike where you're used to hearing them. Elements of the music might seem familiar, but just palpably so, and never in an obvious way.
But sometimes it's best not to think too hardjust let the music ebb and flow, carrying echoes of places distant and not so far away. When approached this way, Entremundo makes for a beautiful experience.
Visit Renaud Garcia-Fons on the web.
Track Listing: Sueno Vivo; Cristobal; Entremundo; Mahoor; 40 Dias; Entre Continentes; Mursiya; Rosario; Doust; Sareban; Aqa Jan (bass solo).
Personnel: Renaud Garcia-Fons (five string bass, tanbur, voice, percussion), Jorge "Negrito" Trasante (drums, bombo, udu, all Latin percussion), Antonio Ruiz "Kiko" (flamenco guitar). With: Henri Tournier (bansuri, flutes), Claire Antonini (tar, vistres, luth baroque), Gaston Sylvestre (cymbalum), Angel Sanchez- Gonzalez "Cepillo" (palmas, cajon, jalco, pandeiro), Bruno Caillat (tablas, daf, kanjeera), Philippe Slovinsky (trumpet), Allen Hoist (tenor sax).