Mediterraneo by Marc Antoine – reviewed by Chris Mann


French-born guitarist and composer Marc Antoine was fascinated by music and dance almost before he could walk.  He won the money to buy his first guitar and learned his first chords from a neighbour in a single afternoon. 

With his father’s encouragement and with music by Keith Jarrett, Joe Pass and John Williams to listen to, Marc studied at the Paris conservatory and perfected his skills playing in Paris clubs. 

His passion for music has carried him through soul-searching over whether he would be a musician or an Olympic standard swimmer and through a dreadful injury at the age of 19 which left him with the tendons in his left wrist severed.  This passion is evident on all six of his solo releases to date, starting with “Classical Soul” in 1994 up to his latest CD on Dave Koz’s brand new Rendezvous label. 

This is classic Marc Antoine from the first few bars.  Cubanova (the clue’s in the title folks) is latin with a distinct groove.  The guitar is as airy as the beat is solid.  The beat’s solid but never hard-edged and there are beautiful percussion touches throughout from latin percussion master Luis Conte.  Add to this some horn and string backing to die for and one of the catchiest hooks around at the moment and you’ve got a song that every jazz/NAC station worth its name should be spinning heavily.  Continuing the theme, Funky Picante has a lovely staccato drum pattern, sassy horns and joyful percussion.  Antoine’s Spanish guitar sounds confident and, Mike Pela, you got the balance just right.  Perfection. 

The title track moves to a more rigid drum pattern and though all the elements from the previous tracks are there (minus horns), the latin pizzazz gives way to a good, strong melody and another great hook.  It’s upbeat and will grab lots of airplay.  Preludio is more sombre but still alive with percussion, a soft hip-hop backbeat and a big acoustic in which the guitar can work its magic.  The flute sound is the final touch which marks this out as a potential for use on a movie soundtrack – I’d fade it before the organ at the end though… 

The mood is equally dark on Castellana Hood.  The slow, hypnotic drum pattern is the perfect setting for Yellowjackets' Jimmy Haslip to deliver a slinky bassline, which goes way down low.  Lulo Perez creates a great atmosphere with muted trumpet stabs.  Urban gypsy music – really, this is the definition.  There are fusions everywhere.  Afromenco blends African rhythmic exuberance with latin-influenced jazz styling.  Antoine’s solo on this song is flawless and Perez ditches the mute to indulge in some spirited trumpet/guitar interplay.  Antoine can sure write hooks… 

Remember Quand le Jazz Hip-Hop from “Urban Gypsy”?  That same energy is there on the irresistible Señor Groove.  Marc Antoine, please come to my hometown and open a set with this.  People will be dancing in the aisles.  Can flamenco-flavoured jazz really rock?  Oh my Lord yes!!  This CD has not been out of my player since I received it.  Gotham is the song I can’t stop playing.  It’s got a slow but funky rhythm that grabs you.  Andre Manga’s subterranean bass grabs you harder.  The keyboards, background vocals and guitar conspire to carry you off in a dream.  It’s tempting to play this loud to feel that bass.  Looking back, I think I first heard this over the PA system before a recent Isley Brothers show.  I remember thinking that moments like that have kept me spellbound by jazz, funk and soul for over 25 years. 

Everything But the Girl’s Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn have written so many lovely songs and Lady must rank as one of their best.  It’s the only non-original composition here and it’s delivered in a smooth, cool, sexy, latin way.  Fred Gaillardet’s Rhodes playing is more in evidence here and it’s a great old-skool touch.  Gringo chugs like a steam train.  The bass and drums are locked in tight and the guitar lines are gutsy and played with conviction.  There are more old-fashioned and playful keyboards on here.  Marc, if you come to my hometown, close with this and leave ‘em wanting more.  You could jam on this one all night. 

The closing song here is the pretty Alejandro’s Lullaby, dedicated, I’d guess to Antoine’s son. 

If an artist sets out to say “this is who I am”, the result can be stunning.  That’s what’s happened here.  A French guy growing up to the sound of African and Brazilian music, recording an album in his adopted home, Madrid.  I have genuinely fallen in love with this album – it’s going to sit next to my copy of “Urban Gypsy” and “Madrid” and they are all going to get played a lot. 


  Label – Rendezvous  Cat no.  REN 5101-2   Producer – Marc Antoine