Renaud Garcia-Fons' New Album Bridges The Mediterranean The Spanish-French musician says the initial thinking behind his new album, Mediterranees, was not to compose music for a band. Instead, he says he wanted to make a concept album inspired by music across the Mediterranean and beyond.

Renaud Garcia-Fons' New Album Bridges The Mediterranean

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Renaud Garcia-Fons is known among jazz fans as a virtuoso of the acoustic bass. The sounds he conjures from his five-string bass have won him admirers around the world. For his latest project, the Spanish-French musician wanted to concentrate on composition and to connect the music of East and West.

Betto Arcos reports.

BETTO ARCOS: Renaud Garcia-Fons says the initial thinking behind his new album "Mediterranees" was not to compose music for a band but to make a concept album inspired by music across the Mediterranean, and that took him back to his childhood.

Mr. RENAUD GARCIA-FONS (Musician): When I was in family, I was, of course, listening Spanish music, but when I grew up in Paris, I had chance to listen to many different music from north of Africa, for example, which is Mediterranean. And after that, I had really a passion for all the music coming from Middle East, from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt.

ARCOS: Garcia-Fons says all of these musics share common elements, and he wanted to find the connections.

(Soundbite of music, "Aljamiado")

Mr. GARCIA-FONS: This is what I think: We have, really, some bridges. Of course, each tradition is unique, but the sense of this music was also to try to establish some bridges between.

(Soundbite of music, "Aljamiado")

ARCOS: His exploration begins in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, with a piece called "Aljamiado," a reference to the Spanish language from the time when the region was ruled by the Moors.

(Soundbite of music, "Aljamiado")

Mr. GARCIA-FONS: For me, it's a good illustration of the union between Occident and Orient, you know?

ARCOS: The music moves from West to East, from Spain to the south of France, Italy, Greece, to the northern tip of the Mediterranean.

(Soundbite of music, "Bosphore")

Mr. GARCIA-FONS: So all the first pieces are more in the Occidental way, and then the big change starts in the piece called "Bosphore," because the trip arrive finally on the Bosphorus. So we reach the Orient and start some more Oriental influences.

(Soundbite of music, "Bosphore")

ARCOS: Unlike some of his previous recordings, the new album is not centered around his five-string acoustic bass but on composition. Nevertheless, Yatrika Shah-Rais, music director at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where Garcia-Fons performed recently with his quartet, says Garcia-Fons is a virtuoso.

Ms. YATRIKA SHAH-RAIS (Music Director, Skirball Cultural Center): This is a world-class musician that deserves to be truly acknowledged for what he does. He's unique in every sense of the word. He's unique in his approach to compositions, to his music. He's unique in his technique. He's unique in the way that he has revolutionized the bass, and simply, he has a fantastic band.

(Soundbite of music)

ARCOS: Garcia-Fons says he has always been intrigued with the notion that the roots of Western music come from the East, and he believes that thread is present not just in Western Europe but also in the Americas.

Mr. GARCIA-FONS: This is a fascinating point for me, and this is what also I really appreciate in all American music, from south to north, is that we can feel this influence from the Mediterranean area. And I think maybe the common relative is baroque music. I heard that many baroque musicians find some codex, for example, in Mexico, so I think this was one of the bridge for the music to come here and to meet other people.

ARCOS: And this aspect of music is very important to him. Garcia-Fons says his new record is about a yearning for a common identity. Identity, he says, is something everyone can share, as we all have something in common, and music can be the bridge to connect us.

For NPR News, I'm Betto Arcos.

(Soundbite of music)

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