Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu has always been more angel than devil, though he's fronted quartets that name check both of those respectively heavenly and hellish entities. His horn work is coolly lyrical and spellbinding, regardless of the setting it's found in, but Fresu also has an impish side to his personality that takes over at certain times; he taps into that deviousness in a few places on Desertico, but the majority of the music is gorgeous, reflective and peaceful.
While the title of the record points to the dry, arid and lifeless spaces of this world, the songs are anything but. Fresu and his Devil Quartet create music brimming with life, clarity, sensitivity and strength; Desertico is a musical oasis, not a barren desert.
Sardinian-born trumpeter Paolo Fresu and bandoneonist Daniele di Bonaventura from Fermo, Italy, indicated the depth of their musical understanding on 2010’s Mistico Mediterraneo, a collaboration with Corsican singers A Filetta. Left to their own resources they explore a very broad range of material which includes original ballads by both men, improvisations, a Puccini theme from La Boheme, liturgical music, pieces by legendary Chilean songwriter Victor Jara and Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jaime Roos, music of Neapolitan composer Ernesto de Curtis, “O que sera” by Brazil’s Chico Buarque and more. Daniele Di Bonaventura has spent much of his creative life bringing aspects of jazz and music of South American traditions together, and Paolo Fresu is one of the outstanding lyrical voices of contemporary improvising. When Fresu plays muted trumpet, he makes a point of bringing Miles Davis to mind; at such moments, Di Bonaventura’s bandoneon becomes a chamber orchestra behind a soloist. The relationship between the instruments is continually changing throughout this attractive programme, recorded in the warm and spacious acoustics of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in May 2014, and produced by Manfred Eicher. (The session itself has already achieved a measure of renown: scenes from it appear in the new documentary Wenn aus dem Himmel by Italian filmmaker Fabrizio Ferraro, which is currently making the rounds of the festivals.)
Sketches of Corsica: the radiant lyric trumpet of Paolo Fresu glides across the massed voices of A Filetta, the singers who are both trailblazers and keepers of tradition in the realm of Corsican polyphony. The ancient and the experimental blend seamlessly in these compositions, several of them written by ensemble founder Jean-Claude Acquaviva, who has directed the singing group for more than thirty years. A powerful showing here also for Italian bandoneon innovator Daniele di Bonaventura, who contributes new music, solos imaginatively, duets with Fresu, and envelops voices and trumpet with an almost orchestral sense of form.