Mare Nostrum III is the third collaboration between Paolo Fresu on trumpet and flugelhorn, Richard Galliano on accordion and bandoneon, and Jan Lundgren on piano. With the first two albums recorded in Italy and France, respectively, the third outing sees the jazz ‘supergroup’ reconvene in Sweden, recording at the Nilento Studio in Gothenburg.
The alum starts strongly. Blues Sur Seine, as the title suggests, is a Galliano composition. There are echoes of Paris, of Satie, and Lundgren’s playing is delicate, capturing the mood perfectly. Pavese is a delightful composition from Fresu, whose ear for melody is as strong as always. His playing, soft and airy, never fails to please.
Love Land is built around a jaunty piano line from Lundgren, apparently influenced by Swedish folklore. The change of pace works, but the tune was not to my taste. The album gets back on track with Legrand’s Windmills Of My Mind. On the face of it, a tune we have heard so many times, but the moment Galliano starts playing, you know the trio are going to find something fresh.
Le Jardin Des Fées is another Galliano composition, a moving tribute to the late violinist , Didier Lockwood. There’s some delightful interplay between the trio, whose interaction feels so seemless. Love Theme From The ‘Getaway’, by Quincy Jones, is translated into European, but the melody is never lost in translation, whilst Human Requiem by Paolo Fresu, played on muted trumpet, is one of the album’s highlights.
As the album progressed, I must confess that I found the album a little bland and one-paced. Letter To My Mother, by Richard Galliano, is a pleasing melody, but coming right after Human Requiem, made the album drag a little. Ronneby by Jan Lundgren, is based on the town in which he grew up, and whilst the folk-like melody injects a change of pace, it was not my favourite tune on the album.
European chamber jazz, as this jazz-classical-folk hybrid is sometimes described, has certainly expanded the audience for jazz, with this trio playing to packed audiences all over Europe over the last several years. At its best, perhaps in small doses, this album has plenty to recommend it – but taken as a whole, I found myself yearning for something a little more challenging.
One final note; the production on this album was not up to ACT’s usual high standards. On high-end equipment, there was a notable distortion on some of the higher notes – not something I noticed listening in the car, but clearly audible in a quieter environment. Three stars.