In the beginning there was the contrabass. Then came the men who revolutionized it: In one world these were men such as Domenico Dragonetti and Serge Koussevitsky and a slew of others including Francois Rabbath, godfather to the modern chamber bass Joel Quarrington and others. From another world came Jimmy Blanton, who begat Charles Mingus who begat a slew of others from Scott Lafaro to Red Mitchell; even perhaps Jeff Sarli and others… Then came Renaud García-Fons, who melded all of this together , swathing it all in the diaphanous gown of a whirling dervish and a man who, setting out from the Mediterranean to the world of everything from flamenco to the voices of the Romani of Hungary and elsewhere. García-Fons the great bassist who would claim origins from Catalonia and France and who then spread his wings so wide that he flew, metaphorically, touching the ends of the world.
García-Fons—the only other bassist like him today is Glenn Moore of the group, Oregon—is the epitomé of a modern bassist who has drunk from the well of the ingenious spirit music of the world. His music, albeit flavored by the Mediterranean, is impossible to put into a category. His is a music that is at once classical and oriental—and it swings like made, which brings it into the realm of jazz. But then it is also Spanish and all things Latin in its soul and intellect. Lest that sound as if García-Fons’ music is slightly stilted it bears mention that it also shuffles and swerves like music that precedes the main samba or a rumba event. Perhaps the only thing that can be said about García-Fons with any degree of certainty is that he is technically such a virtuoso that it might take another generation to reach his level of proficiency. Like Mingus, before him, García-Fons plays both pizzicato and con arco as if he were speaking to the strings from deep within his soul; or that he were just a medium through which the Divine Spirit were pouring out liquid music from a deep and eternal source. With fingers moved by God, as Mingus once said.
On one of two memorable albums released in 2012, entitled Mediterranées Renaud García-Fons returns to his Oriental roots. The bassist once again gives it his all. His technique is flawless and he plays with soulful expression, as if standing alone on the high mountain of “Sinaï” itself, almost too close to the proverbial Burning Bush. The searing heat touches every note he plays as if it were his last. It is impossible to sound so deep and wholesome by simply playing from even his guts. García-Fons dugs even deeper, possessed by the spirit of a musician who inhabits not just three but four dimensions. Here he is also surrounded by an ensemble that is inspired by his leadership to reach deep within themselves and give of their souls.
This is not something that happens regularly, but rarely in the lifetime of musicians. When it does, albums such as this one are produced. García-Fons must also be given credit for his compositions here; and his arrangements. This is the stuff that dreams are made of aroused by a spiritual dimension. But then this is Renaud García-Fons, a musician so special that he walks and plays on a rarified plane of the earth.
Tracks: Aljamaido; Luces de Lorca; Forteleza; Los Secretos; Las Ramblas; La Demoiselle de Céret; Camp d’Argeles; La Strada; Romsarom; Iraklio; Dalmatia; Mythologie; Bosphore; Bekaa; Hmar Nadir; Sinaï; Safran; Poussière de Ksar.
Personnel: Renaud García-Fons: compositions and arrangements, double basses, tanbur, udu, bendir, cajon, daf, palmas; Claire Antonini: baroque lute, theorbo, tar, zither, bouzouki; David Venitucci: accordion; Kiko Ruiz: flamenco guitar, palmas; Adel Shams el-din: rik, derbouka; Bruno Caillat: zarb, rik, daf; Bruno Sansalone: clarinets; Solea-García-Fons: vocal (4).
Renaud García-Fons – Official website: www.renaudgarciafons.com
Label: enja Records
Release date: January 2011
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama