Olivier Benoit brings his EUROPA project to a close by setting a northerly course with his musicians that takes them to the capital of Norway. Oslo is an atypical city. Nestling in the heart of triumphant natural surroundings, it has constantly pursued its architectural and cultural transformation, somewhere in between ancient tradition and the incredibly modern. At the close of the last century, this city was already setting the tone for new artistic concepts. To accompany the capital of Norway in music and establish a subjective portrait of the city, first an immersion was necessary. Living to the rhythm of Oslo’s seasons constituted a vital source of inspiration that provided the composition with its starting point.
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.