By Ken Bader
Trumpeter Paolo Fresu has been one of the leading lights of European jazz for two decades now. He's an unlikely virtuoso.
He was born and raised in rural Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. But he discovered jazz on the radio when he was 18 years old. And Paolo Fresu was on his way.
His latest album is out this week. And it boasts Paolo Fresu and some remarkable musical friends. Paolo Fresu is not a proponent of flashy technique. For him, it's all about the sound.
"For me, the sound is emotion," says Fresu. "For me, the sound is poetry. For me, the sound is romantic color. So sound and melody are the most important things in the music for me."
Paolo Fresu adds a couple of ingredients to his sound on his new CD, "Mistico Mediterraneo."
There's a bandoneon, a kind of concertina, played by Daniele di Bonaventura. And there's vocal polyphony, courtesy of a Corsican septet called A Filetta.
"With A Filetta, we started together five years ago in Corsica," Fresu recalls. "Corsica is the other island – the French island – not far from Sardinia. And I was really, really impressed with this kind of polyphonic music, because I know the polyphonic music from Sardinia. And the music from Corsica is completely different, especially the music of A Filetta, because it's very contemporary, and it's kind of open music."
Paolo Fresu knew he was taking a chance when he joined forces with A Filetta.
"Sometimes, when you try to mix the jazz with the traditional music, it's a risky step," says Fresu. "The level of each is different. You know, the jazz musician is on the top, and the traditional musician sometimes is like an exotic carpet for music. I don't like this. So with them, it was perfectly…we were all exactly at the same level."
Fresu acknowledges that the music of "Mistico Mediterraneo" is hard to categorize.
"The music is a mix," he says. "It's not jazz, of course. It's not traditional music. It's not contemporary music. It's all the music together. And I like very much this idea of making many, many different languages together. It's very nice."
Very nice, indeed.