The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
A lengthy tour of the Mediterranean would have benefited from being more selective
Wednesday, 01 June 2011
Renaud García-Fons (double bass/tanbur/udu/bendir/cajon/daf/palmas) et al
Enja records ENJ-9563 2
This clockwise journey around the Mediterranean rim is not, Renaud García-Fons emphasises, mere musical tourism, but a meaningful journey that places melody at its heart. The attempt to cover so many heritages and sounds is the album’s weakness – it feels too long, although paradoxically there is much more scope for exploration within many of the rather repetitive tunes than is allowed here. But García-Fons also draws strength from this variety, presenting a wonderful array of stringed instruments, which he arranges deftly and performs with polish. The album’s length also gives him room to demonstrate his considerable technical finesse as a player. His focused, ever so slightly buzzy pizzicato sound is the first thing you hear as the album opens, and is perfect for much of this repertoire; his flamenco rasgueado strumming comes into its own, too, and while a freestyle section in Fortaleza is waffly, a light, airy arco on melodies such as La demoiselle de Céret is beautifully judged. Despite the potential for a large-group jamboree, the stripped-down solos and duets – in particular the honeyed vocals accompanied by theorbo in Los secretos, and García-Fons going solo in Camp d’Argèles – stay longer in the memory. But at this length, the album could do with another dimension here and there.
From the June 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.