Guitarist and composer Marc Antoine is like Ottmar Liebert with teeth. He's an amazingly gifted guitarist who plays in flamenco and Latin jazz styles with equal grace and aplomb, and his recordings are slick, sweet, and lean heavily on the smooth jazz tip. That said, on Mediterraneo, his seventh album, there is some real fire in both material and playing. Like Oscar Lopez, Antoine goes for the heart of a particular piece of music in his soloing, and when he finds it, despite the arrangement, production, or textured ambience, he doesn't let go; he wrestles with it until it gives up every ounce of emotion and meaning it can muster. The title cut, with its gloriously languid drum program and Antoine's transcendent melody that comes across as a stunningly moving chanted prayer, is overwhelming in its melodic invention. On the opener, "Cubanova," a son rhythm track crosses a samba and Antoine's extended chord voicings create a tough yet airy backdrop for his in-the-pocket soloing. Keyboards by Frederic Gaillardet offer a washed soundscape that is reminiscent of piercing blue skies and sanguine ocean waves. The laid-back funky "Afromenco" illustrates the best of both genres. The biggest surprise on the set is the cover of Everything But the Girl's "Lady," with Samantha Murphy on vocals. He captures the innocence of the original while moving the entire cut over a continent or two and making it a souled-out Cuban-Brazilian ode. Ultimately, Mediterraneo is Antoine's finest moment to date, and is indicative of the kinds of changes he's moving toward as his grasp of his chosen musical vocabularies grows and expounds on that knowledge.