Charmediterranéen (“Mediterranean Spell”) was the initial project Paolo Damiani conceived during his two-year tenure as the artistic and musical director of France’s Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ). According to the Italian bassist, cellist and composer, it was “inspired by the sea which, like music, moves fluidly and can seep into and unite rigid and separate worlds”. It features melodies and rhythms infused with the charm, warmth and sensuality one naturally associates with the Mediterranean. But the album has its tempestuous and tumultuous moments as well in sections that conjure up images of the powerful “scirocco” and “maestrale” winds that constantly buffet the region.
It is the first ECM album by the French big band celebrated as an important institution in contemporary jazz. Founded in 1986 at the instigation of the French Ministry of Culture, the Orchestre National de Jazz has had a distinguished career with projects stressing the strength of French improvising and the potential for collaboration with musicians of other cultures. Among the guest musicians who have played with the ensemble are Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, Carla Bley, Jeanne Lee, and Maria Schneider.
On this disc, the ONJ is joined by two artists familiar to ECM listeners: Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem, and Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi, whose ‘In Cerca di Cibo’ was one of the runaway hits of recent yearss.
‘Charmediteranéen’ is a live recording, made at Montbéliard. In the live context, Mediterranean-related video projections – selected by long-time ECM associate Roberto Masotti – also influenced the flow of the music. (Some of this material is shown in the striking CD booklet). The musical material is very wide-ranging, touching on reference points including Arab modes (Brahem’s contribution) and Monteverdi (quoted by Trovesi) as well as the entire jazz big band tradition.
Personnel: Paul Damiani – (cello, artistic and musical direction), Orchestre National de Jazz, Anouar Brahem – (oud), Gianluigi Trovesi – (piccolo clarinet, alto saxophone)