Mare Nostrum II, as the name suggests, is the second collaboration between the Sardinian trumpet player, Paolo Fresu, French accordionist Richard Galliano and the Swedish pianist, Jan Lundgren. The title comes from the Latin, meaning ‘our sea’, a term used by the Roman to refer to the Mediterranean, which seems appropriate, given the southern European flavour of many of these compositions.
The original album, which came out in 2007, was well received, and the trio performed over 150 concerts worldwide in the years that followed. Perhaps the only surprise is that it took nine years to record a follow-up! The new album follows a similar path to its predecessor; this is essentially fine chamber jazz, based on simple, elegant melodies written by the three musicians, with a couple of unusual covers thrown in for good measure.
Apnea was composed by Fresu, and opens with some delicate piano, before the main theme is played by Galliano. Fresu soon joins him on muted trumpet, and the gentle pace of the music reminds the listener of a lazy summer’s day. Blue Silence sees Fresu remove the mute, and play in a soft, lyrical style that is not dissimilar Chet Baker’s later recordings with the likes of pianist Michel Graillier. It also serves as a reminder that Chet’s influence in Europe is still being felt, close to thirty years after his death.
Aurore, composed by Galliano, is one of the prettiest tunes on the album, but by Kristallen Den Fina and Giselle, the album starts to feel a little one-paced.
A Lundgren original, Leklåt, tries to inject a little pace and humour into the proceedings, but to my mind it is one of the weaker tracks on the album
There are still moments of genuine beauty. Fresu’s E Varie Notti Tre Vie Notai is almost hymn-like, the melody proving a perfect vehicle for his warm flugelhorn. Lundgren’s wistful-sounding Farväl (Farewell) is another favourite, which sees Fresu returned to the muted trumpet.
The two other covers are also worth highlighting here. Gnossienne No. 1 was composed by Erik Satie, and has been radically re-arranged by Galliano, giving it a late-night feel that is accentuated by Fresu’s fine muted trumpet. Monteverdi’s haunting Sì Dolce E Il Tormento brings the album to a close, this time arranged by Fresu, whose playing is quite sublime.
Like many sequels, Mare Nostrum II does not quite live up the original; it does come close, however, and there enough delightful melodies here to make it a worthwhile purchase.