For the first time under the direction of a foreigner, Paolo Damiani, the French orchestra explores themes related to the Mediterranean area. With the help of special guests Anouar Brahem and Gianluigi Trovesi, the Italian musical director offers musical landscapes that encompass the various aspects of the region. The album opens with a suite penned by Trovesi, which digs deep into the Italian musical tradition, but also incorporates more recent influences from the Middle East and Africa. With the brass instruments in the forefront, it is definitely the most colorful and animated segment of the disc. François Jeanneau takes the relay with another suite that brings the music back into jazz territory while paying tribute to the long French tradition of jazz violin. The saxophonist successfully blends the saxophones with the string and brass sections, producing a unique and rich texture. Brahem's two-part composition "Artefact" slows down the pace and sets a more reflective mood. Not surprisingly, the music has a strong Middle Eastern flavor. Ironically, the musical director's contributions featured at the end of the program pale in comparison and sound somewhat conventional. The pace is similar to Brahem's piece, which might suggest that the music could have been better sequenced. "Argentiera" features some thoughtful playing, but the title track is lackluster save for a forceful solo by Trovesi. This is a disappointment for an otherwise very enjoyable outing adequately dominated by the voice of the soprano saxophone.
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AllMusic Review by Alain Drouot