|French double-bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons is unequalled for sheer chops and compositional daring. I by now have every one of his albums and can attest to there being not one loser in the bunch. How he manages to continue to deliver new works of the same or higher quality is besides the point when the point, really, becomes that if RGF is news to you, you've got some massive catching up to do. This isn't a question of taste. Anyone for whom I've ever played anything by Renaud always sat down with pen and paper afterwards and furiously jotted down enough info to order an album. This is of the same magnitude as visiting a Circque de Soleil performance in their own house in Las Vegas. The material for|
|Entremundo is an adaptation of trio fare which Garcia-Fons routinely performs on stage with Flamenco guitarist Antonio 'Kiko' Ruiz who collaborated on the first Chico & The Gipsies album, and percussionist Jorge 'Negrito' Transate. Now the trio setting is exploded to include bansuri flutist Henri Tournier, luthier Claire Antonini, cymbalom player Gastorn Sylvestre, Flamenco percussionist Angel 'Cepillo' Sanchez-Gonzales, drummer Bruno Caillat, trumpeter Philippe Slovinsky and tenor saxman Allen Hoist.
Coming from one of the best bassists alive, you won't be surprised to learn that Entremundo is an exercise in extreme polyrhythmic sophistication. The listing of one Flamenco guitarist and percussionist each further indicates inclusion of Flamenco compas, those very complex rhythmic patterns typical of higher-order Flamenco but not so typical mastered chapter and verse by a non-Spanish double bass player. Alas, Renaud's prior duetizing efforts with guitarist Pedro Soler and his landmark large-ensemble album Oriental Bass already showcased his intimate familiarity not only with the genre but also his fascination with turning his huge 5-string bass into a quasi guitar that mimics the typical rasgueado flash-strumming in spiccato form, the lightining-fast arpeggios in rapidly bowed form. Of course con arco legatos into the highest imaginable registers are a Garcia-Fons speciality and impossible on guitar and thus alien to Flamenco.
But then, Entremundo isn't a Flamenco album at all but rather, an uncategorizable WorldBeat effort that simply borrows certain rhythmic conventions and ingredients such as palmas and cajon drumming from this Spanish music, then injects Jazz interludes with parallel vocalizing and sundry Mediterranean and Latin elements. To hint at the wealth of musical strands intermeshed and woven into unexpected pattern, the unfamiliar listener is perhaps best pointed at Andreas Vollenweider who has accomplished a similarly comprehensive make-over for the aural language of the concert harp. For a solo demonstration of bass mastery, look no farther than the concluding 8-minute "Aqâ Jân" workout which should be a mandatory demo track for any true audiophile worth his salt. But the same would be true for the monster bulerías of "Entre Continentes", a high-speed romp through instrumental Flamenco territory overlaid with Latin brass accents and Indian bansuri flute that undergoes multiple time gates into lyrical interludes. In fact, excluding any track as bona fide demonstrator material is rather impossible and simply a matter of personal taste, time of day and phase of the moon.
As is usual for RGF albums on Enja, recording quality is top notch not only in general but especially in how it captures the wide dynamic range, tonal palette and frequency range of the double bass. This is something lovers of Jazz pianist Jacques Loussier's trio already know as well - though it's another French musician and another French mastering facility, it's also another superior recreation of recorded double bass. And like Loussier, Renaud Garcia-Fons fully indulges the playful aspects that open up when a musician suffers no technical or conceptual limitations and can seamlessly cross stylistic boundaries as inspiration, creativity and spontaneous whims dictate. Though clearly scored, Entremundo also signals plenty of improvisational liberties. The structured compositional elements are a dire necessity because many ensemble interactions are high-speed parallel affairs requiring utmost precision to come off. The improvisational elements embrace individual solos embedded in the structured mesh. Above all, Entremundo is a supremely tight-knit group effort that projects enormous vitality - this is demanding music for both players and listeners. If you spin it, prepare to be startled, then addicted. I seem to say it in every Renaud Garcia-Fons review so here I go again: You have never heard bass played this - guaranteed!