Although Paolo Fresu’s most recent collaboration with Ralph Towner Chiaroscuro was incredibly well received, his latest, Mistico Mediterraneo, is something far more challenging. While the trumpeter’s name appears first in this collaborative effort, the recording is dominated by the incredible seven-voice ensemble known as A Filetta Corsican Voices.
A Filetta’s history stretches all the way back to 1978. Jean-Claude Acquaviva joined them during the first month of their existence, and now leads them. In the following decades they have moved far beyond their original mission of reprising revered Corsican polyphonic-vocal music. They are a living, breathing unit, continuing to update and develop new music constantly.
Paolo met them quite a number of years ago, and had always harbored a desire to work with the group. When the opportunity of adding Daniele di Bonaventura on the bandoneon arose, the project Mistico Mediterraneo began to take shape.
The 13 tracks that make up the disc are led by the wonderful a cappella vocals of A Filetta – but both Fresu and Bonaventura do an excellent job in improvising as well. In fact, their improvisations around the fixed points A Filetta sang in the compositions are what make Mistico such an enduring recording.
A brilliant example of this give-and-take interplay comes early on with the track “Da te a me.” Paolo’s high, lonesome style complements the vocals perfectly, then when Daniele’s bandoneon comes in for an instrumental duet the results are simply beautiful. The vocals, trumpet, and bandoneon make for a wonderful mix of sounds. Although the collaboration might look to the outsider as a difficult one to pull off, the participants’ respect for each other and the music is absolute. It is a gorgeous noise they produce.
“Gloria” is another stunning success. Opening with an upbeat trumpet solo from Paolo, soon Daniele joins with his bandoneon, setting the stage for A Filetta’s triumphant, rhythmic chanting of “Gloria in excelsis Deo…” A particular favorite for me is “Gradualis,” co-written by Daniele di Bonaventura and Jean-Claude Acquaviva. Again, all three components in the endeavor are most sympathetic to each other, with the whole adding up to much more than the sum of its parts.
The final track, “Sanctus,” is credited to Daniele di Bonaventura alone, and says a lot about the man. This is certainly no bandoneon solo piece, although the instrument is definitely present. It is the gorgeous (and very Miles Davis-ish) trumpet solo one notices the most. Paolo has readily admitted that the sound of Miles on his landmark Sketches Of Spain has been a major influence, and we certainly hear it here. A Filetta are a world-class vocal unit – their brilliance throughout Mistico Mediterraneo is a joy to behold.
This is an album with such taste, forward vision, and grace that I simply cannot recommend it highly enough. It was clearly a treat for those involved to make, and an incredibly satisfying set of music for the audience. Very highly recommended.