The Atacama Experience was conceived as a musical journey starting with a Paris street ambiance (Intro) followed by 13 songs, taking us through different lands, through a variety of impressions and emotions, through the past and present. This is also the first album that I produced in such 'on and off' manner, between January 2006 and February 2007. During that time period I also traveled and performed with my band on different continents, from South America to Europe, from Russia to Venezuela, from the U.S.A. to India, returning to this album project each time with fresh ears and new insight.
These travel experiences influenced the development of certain musical ideas that were rooted in my musical past by revisiting them with a new approach, such as sketches of electronic improvisations from the 80s that I never developed and that came to maturity as a collage in the title track The Atacama Experience. These sound colors evoked perfectly the vast canyons of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, which I visited after a show in Santiago. Then Desert Crossing is the very first unaccompanied acoustic violin piece that I ever recorded. A concept that required almost as much courage from me as crossing a desert!
Between these two extremes represented by an electronic and an acoustic solo, we have the main concept of this new album, performances by a band with great musical interaction, acquired by playing on so many stages around the world for several years now, with William Lecomte on keyboards, Guy Nsangué Akwa on electric bass, Thierry Arpino on drums and Taffa Cissé on percussion.
William Lecomte is a great admirer of bebop pianist Bud Powell and made a modern arrangement on Powell's composition Parisian Thoroughfare. Bud lived in Paris in the 60s and although William is too young to have seen him perform, I jammed with Bud in my early years. This gave us more than one reason to revisit this composition.
Guitar had disappeared from my band's instrumentation in recent years, but was really needed on some of pieces in this album, which is why I invited two very special guests: Philip Catherine who contributes solos on Parisian Thoroughfare and Still In Love. Philip started his career in my band in the early 70s before I moved to America, and became one of the most prominent jazz guitarists in Europe. His participation means a lot to me as it seals our first reunion on a recording after so many years. Then as I was writing Point Of No Return, I was hearing in my mind the only electric guitarist who could bring the lyricism of that piece to its highest peak: Allan Holdsworth. Not only was I right, his playing here surpasses my expectations. His sound is more beautiful than ever and his lyricism combined with an intelligent choice of notes and rhythm make for the best solo that he ever contributed to my recordings.
The song titles are: Parisian Thoroughfare (by Bud Powell, with Philip Catherine) - Premonition - Point Of No Return (with Allan Holdsworth) - Back In The 60's - Without Regrets - Celtic Steps - Desert Crossing (violin solo) - Last Memories of Her - The Atacama Experience (electronic solo) - On My Way To Bombay - Still In Love (with Philip Catherine) - Euphoria (by William Lecomte) - To And Fro. All composed by me except where indicated.
While preparing the album credits someone in our office made a mistake and reversed the middle syllables of ATACAMA into ACATAMA in the album title as well as in the song title and credits. Jean Luc was furious when he found out, but it was too late as CDs were already being manufactured.
If you click on Photo/Video and watch the short film about the making of the new CD you will hear Jean Luc pronouncing Atacama correctly, and he mentions this error in every interview, error that should be in future CD manufacturing.