The original Gabin -- a French actor known for his portrayals of jaded, faded anti-heroes in 1930s and '40s-era films -- might have chuckled ironically if he had been told that, a half-century after his heyday, two Italian musicians would name a fledgling lounge music project after him. But if he had listened to the music, he would have understood. It's full of languid grace and melancholy and is undeniably stylish -- exactly what you'd expect to hear in a Parisian café or supper club. Just to add to the effect, many of the song titles and lyrics are in French.

Fillippo Cary and Max Bottini, the men behind this curious project, came from vastly different musical backgrounds. Cary is a DJ, and had spent much of the '90s presiding over chill rooms in Rome's major venues. Bottini, a jazz bassist, had spent the past decade performing with the likes of John Scofield and Billy Coghan. Together, they created a jazz-electro-lounge-world hybrid -- difficult to categorize, easy on the ears. Their eponymous debut has been variously described as downtempo, mellow house, and Latin jazz. Various guest artists contribute to the mélange. Released in Europe in 2002 (on Virgin Records), Gabin earned quite a bit of critical attention, especially among electronic music circles. The closest thing to mainstream success came in Italy, where both Cary and Bottini already had a solid fan base. Jazzy house single "Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap" climbed to number three on the Italian charts. The duo has not cracked the American market, but they've made a good start: Near the end of 2002, Gabin was released in the U.S. on legendary electronic label Astralwerks. Good reviews and a fair amount of radio play helped introduce it to potential fans stateside. ~ L. Katz, Rovi