On esko we go on a musical journey across Europe to the extraordinary land of Bohemia (popularly known as esko, but officially means Czech), the homeland of two composers we have come to love so much. It doesn't seem to matter that we hardly know their country: the indescribable energy of the music, with its folk melodies and harmonies, revealing the essence of a nation steeped in a deep cultural history, takes us there instantly.
Guitarist Barthelemy has spent much of his career working with orchestras, both jazz and classical, and on this album he teams up again with the 13-piece Orchestre National De Jazz. Stylistically various, the programme here ranges from wild free-form to tightly arranged passages, sometimes in pastiche mood. This is exciting, exploratory Euro-jazz.
Gil Evans was his spiritual father, and when the pianist and composer Laurent Cugny took charge of the ONJ en 1994. He already had big-band experience: for more than ten years he’d been leading the Big Band Lumière. For Laurent Cugny, the ONJ would be an extension of that rewardind experience, and it was enhanced by great encounters.
For the first time under the direction of a foreigner, Paolo Damiani, the French orchestra explores themes related to the Mediterranean area. With the help of special guests Anouar Brahem and Gianluigi Trovesi, the Italian musical director offers musical landscapes that encompass the various aspects of the region. The album opens with a suite penned by Trovesi, which digs deep into the Italian musical tradition, but also incorporates more recent influences from the Middle East and Africa. With the brass instruments in the forefront, it is definitely the most colorful and animated segment of the disc.
Produced by Laurent Cugny and Daniel Richard for L'orchestre National de Jazz. Laurent Cugny - Bandleader. Ranks alongside George Gruntz as prime European contemporary composer, leader. His large orchestra is remniscent of Gil Evans big band in final stages; his pieces have quirky, unpredictable quality, as do his recordings.
I'm very fond of Miles' '70s "electric" period, especially the dark, deep live albums he recorded during this time (namely Dark Magus and Agharta). This disc, which gives MD the big-band treatment, offers many pleasures of its own, although, for my money, neither Cugny nor anyone else (save maybe Bill Laswell) has ever reached the same primal place that Miles did during this time. Excellent album! This album is something special. Great atmosphere, 60 minutes of pure enjoying.