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Monster five-string bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons' Oriental Bass [Enja 9334-2] is a little-known masterwork of the highest order that was squarely destined for a follow-up. Navigatore is precisely that, another completely mind-bending encounter of rumbling, singing, speed-riffing, spiccato-hammering, sawing bass with complexely rhythmic Orientally-influenced settings led by Jean-Louis Matinier on accordion, a dense ensemble of lute, flamenco guitar, kanun, gumbri, violins, ney, bagpipes, flutes, clarinets, trombone, flügelhorn on one side of the stage and a seven-headed percussion team of Middle-Eastern and Flamenco chopsters on the other.

Garcia-Fons is a musician of the highest caliber who can be found jamming with World Music greats from all around the globe. Like a magnet, this attracts others of equal caliber to join when it's time for the Frenchman to work out his next solo release. I routinely pick up completely unknown CDs if I spot this bassist listed as one of its collaborators. Without fail, this results in precious discoveries time and again, such as Dhafer Youssef's solo albums I would have otherwise overlooked, or Kudsi Erguner's crossover festival programmes. With devilishly dense, immaculately weighted arrangements that demand virtuoso contributions from every single musician, Navigatore again lives in that twilight zone of Occidental/Oriental styles where a ferociously creative artist absorbs all his interests like an alchemical scholar keenly alert to the diverse cultural environments surrounding him.

Navigatore's 12 movements are described as entries in an imaginary log that evokes different lifetimes. One hears Irish reels and jigs made over into hellaciously complicated stylized chamber music. One hears Flamenco rhythms intersect with Caribbean patterns. One hears high-level plucked Jazz runs, bowed romantic interludes that transform the bass into a cello on steroids. It's as though symphony musicians from a World Music orchestra had thrown their superior technical skills and combined life experiences into a massive cauldron, turned up the heat and presto - a masterwork just like the Vermeer of the cover art or a Cirque de Soleil production.

The scary notion here is that every single track and arrangement stems from the pen of Garcia-Fons who is thus revealed to be a consummate renaissance man, a true multi-tasking wizard with a giant tonal and technical palette in which matters such as intonation and precision are taken for granted. That alone of course would amount to plenty of fireworks and whiz-bangery but the more important lesson begun in Oriental Bass and continued in Navigatore is the unflinching level of heartfelt musicianship and compositional elegance that seem to make up the daily diet of this master musician. Unless you've heard him, you plainly had no clue that bass could be played in this fashion. It's really a different ball - nay, bass game when Renaud Garcia-Fons is involved.