When guitarist Robin Nolan formed the Robin Nolan trio in London in 1992, its focus was European gypsy swing à la Django Reinhardt. But the group (which relocated to Amsterdam) later opted for a change of direction, embracing acoustic post-bop with strong world music leanings. No one will mistake Mediterranean Blues, a collection of the Nolan trio's late-'90s work, for swing recordings of the 1930s and 1940s. Though Nolan's lyrical playing still contains elements of Reinhardt, this is very much a post-bop CD. The title Mediterranean Blues doesn't tell you just how eclectic Nolan is. Yes, Mediterranean music is an influence; some of Nolan's pieces contain elements of Greek music. But this album also finds him combining jazz with everything from Middle Eastern to Latin music. Nolan obviously appreciates a variety of Latin rhythms -- not only Afro-Cuban, but also Spanish, Brazilian, and Argentinean. Although Mediterranean Blues falls short of innovative, it does have a certain freshness. Nolan could have easily stuck to gypsy swing; there are still plenty of people in Europe who worship Reinhardt's music and love to hear younger musicians taking a retro-'30s or retro-'40s approach. But Mediterranean Blues demonstrates that Nolan deserves credit for challenging himself and trying a variety of things.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson