«Europa Oslo»is the fourth sonic portrait of European capital by the French Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ), and the last stop – literally – of ONJ under the leadership of composer-guitarist Olivier Benoit, following sonic portraits of Paris, Berlin and Rome. In this portrait Benoit wanted to associate words and speech that will reflect the current spirit of Oslo, transforming fast from ancient cultural and architectural traditions to incredibly modern ones. Oslo-based playwriter-poet Hans Petter Blad selected excerpts from his writings forming a series of realist, somehow elegiac poems that suggested glimpses into contemporary Oslo spirit. Benoit composed music to these evocative texts and chose Italian Maria Laura Baccarini, is a multifaceted artist, vocalist and actress, to sing these texts.
ONJ musical journey into the Nordic capital sound as the most adventurous project in the series of the sonic portraits of European capitals, may be due to the time needed for Benoit and the ONJ to immerse themselves in enigmatic Oslo, its seasonal rhythms, light and darkness. The suite succeeds to sketch a complex puzzle of Oslo, still a small city where can one find intimacy pretty easily in the nearby wild nature, clouded in Nordic reserved melancholy, but also a vibrant, modern city that lives on fast, urgent lanes. Baccarini soft vocals and her suggestive, storytelling delivery charges the intimate, reserved and lyrical tone of the suite while Benoit complex compositions and arrangements for the ONJ balance it with rare intensity, hypnotic, propulsive pulses of the restless, modern Oslo. Benoit compositions, as on previous portraits, stress his panoramic, inclusive universe, bridging between modern jazz and prog-rock with an affinity to hypnotic, repetitive rhythmic patterns. ONJ excellent musicians add to Benoit colorful textures unique solos that highlight their distinct personalities – keyboardist Paul Brousseau on «Ear Against The Wall», Benoit and Sophie Agnel on the prepared piano in «Intimacy», clarinet player Jean Dousteyssier on «A Sculpture Out of Tune» and trumpeter Fabrice Martinez on the instrumental «Det har ingenting å gjøre».
«Europa Oslo» excels more than the previous portraits of European capitals with its urgent sense of exploration and wonder, an ultimate opus that attempts to decipher a cultural enigma. A remarkable conclusion for the exceptional leadership of Benoit.
Olivier Benoit (g), Hans Petter Blad (text), Maria Laura Baccarini (v), Jean Dousteyssier (cl), Alexandra Grimal (ts), Hugues Mayot (as), Fidel Fourneyron (tb), Fabrice Martinez (tp), Théo Ceccaldi (vio), Sophie Agnel (p), Paul Brousseau (Fender Rhodes, bass synth), Sylvain Daniel (b), Eric Echampard (dr, elec)