Madrid is Antoine's first release under the new joint venture agreement between the GRP Recording Company and NYC Music Group.
A few years ago, based on the extraordinary success of Antoine's first two albums Classical Soul and Urban Gypsy, leading industry publication Radio & Records boldly declared that the guitarist is the "future of the format." Considering that so much of what we hear on contemporary jazz radio these days features Antoine's kind of cross cultural influences‹intertwining tasty flavor mixes of classical, Latin and Brazilian music with thick, machine generated urban hip-hop rhythms‹such a statement seems highly prophetic.
It's been a few years since his debut and its hit single "Unity" earned Marc the distinction of Contemporary Jazz Radio's Best New Artist 1995 (and its follow up Urban Gypsy hit the Top Ten on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart in 1996), and now he's back with more exotic traveling‹this time to Madrid, the city in which he lives half the year and where he met his soon-to-be bride.
"While my previous albums have spoken musically of all my travels from my homeland of France to England and the Far East, Madrid mixes elements from my two primary residences, Los Angeles and Spain," says Antoine, who first moved to the U.S. from London in 1990. "A few years ago, I flew for the first time to Spain for some TV promotion appearances, and not only did I fall in love with my fiancee, but I also began discovering the country's rich culture.
"Musically, there's a wonderful blend of Arabic, Spanish, European and American pop styles there," he adds. "It was just a matter of opening my ears to this different universe and realizing how rich an inspiration it could be. And then reconciling that to the uniquely American hip-hop and blues sounds I love so much. Sometimes you just have to go to the place to get the right vibe. I never could play the blues until I came to America, for instance. The images on this album, particularly 'Plaza Mayor' and 'Jazzenco,' are more vivid because I was in a place to experience them firsthand. I wrote 60 percent of the album in Madrid, and my heart was really there during the whole recording."
Antoine's co-producer on Madrid is Rick Braun, a popular horn player and recording artist in his own right who has also scored hits producing artists like Willie & Lobo and Jeff Golub. "I had already recorded a handful of songs at my home studio in L.A., and then when my previous label NYC merged with GRP and a new deal was signed, I realized I needed more songs," recalls Antoine.
"Sometimes I have a hard time being totally objective about my own material. I'd played for Rick on one of Willie & Lobo's albums and played shows with him during the Guitars, Saxes & More tours, and I liked his vibe. He has a great ear for the right sounds and is a good complement to my music, adding the colors of drums, keyboards and of course, his trumpet in the right spots. For 'Dreamsicle,' I had his horn in mind from the start."
Our first stop in Madrid is "Sunland," on which Antoine's lively, flamenco- tinged acoustic strains snap above an easy funk shuffle groove, enhanced by Peter White's romantic accordian solo. After another taste of flamenco magic on the balmy, relaxed title track, Antoine and Braun showcase their chops (both trading off melodic guitar, trumpet and flugelhorn lines and occasionally creating a striking duality) on the easy groovin' "Dreamsicle" and the offbeat samba, "Sarava," which also features Kirk Whalum's cool tenor.
The moody romantic stroll along "Plaza Mayor" (which features the jazzy bass rhythms of Jimmy Earl) is followed by the perfectly titled "Jazzenco," a piece weaving Antoine's Spanish flair with the tender flute harmonies of Bob Sheppard. "Concache" (kon-kah-shey) is the quintessential Madrid L.A. hybrid, with Antoine strutting his best urban flamenco guitar melody over a laid back street groove. Last stops on the tour of Madrid are the hypnotic, trancelike "Amour Hispanic" (featuring Antoine singing a French poem by Ian Manuel); "Cabrillo," with its pounding tribal rhythms bubbling beneath a haunting guitar melody; and the eloquent solo closing piece dedicated to his fiancee, "Rebeca's Waltz."
While contemporary jazz audiences were first introduced to Marc Antoine on his two world tours with Basia in 1988 (when he met fellow instrumental star Peter White, a Basia regular at the time), the guitarist began cutting his multi-cultural teeth some years before this. Receiving his classical training at the Edouard Pailleron College and the International School of Classical Guitar, he developed his chops playing in French jazz clubs and expanded his scope recording with great African artists like Ray Lema and Mori Kaute. While in the studio one day, he met a bassist named Jingle who was overdubbing with Duran Duran; Jingle helped arrange Antoine's audition with Basia, which led to the guitarist's relocating in London in the late '80s.
While in London, Antoine also played on Soul II Soul's legendary first album, worked with the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra and immersed himself in the acid jazz scene; when he moved to Los Angeles, he added his acid jazz influence to his work with Guru's Jazzmatazz, The Solsonics, Queen Latifah, acid jazz DJ GreyHoy, as well as Sting and the late Selena.
As he concludes, "I never know what I am going to do next creatively once I finish a new project, but that is exciting in a way. I'm always looking to try new things, different approaches, while keeping in mind those who have enjoyed the music I have created up till now. I loved the way Miles Davis did it, always trying to reinvent himself, opening himself to new avenues of expression, gradually, without too much drama, and just enjoying the trip along the way."