This man is one of the most talented, consistently tasteful musicians around. He is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, but his main instrument is the oud – the lute of the Arabic music world – and that’s what he plays on this recording, accompanied simply and beautifully by Bechir Selmi on violin and Lassad Hosni on percussion. All of the compositions here – based on traditional Arabic music forms – are by Brahem, except for `Barzakh’ (composed by Brahem and Selmi); and `Souga’ and `Bou Naouara’ (composed by Hosni).
There are slow, moderate, and fast-paced pieces here – most are relatively short, with a couple of moderately long pieces and one lengthy one. The musical ideas and themes are developed intelligently, with grace and incredible beauty – and none of the faster-paced passages give the feeling that the players are utilizing the tempo simply to impress the listener. They allow the music to take them where it will, with no unnecessary side trips or embellishments – but even with the sparse instrumentation (or perhaps because of it), each piece is full and complete.
ECM has a long-standing reputation for releasing music that refuses to be rammed into the corner of a single genre – BARZAKH is an outstanding example of that freedom of thought. This is a recording that can be appreciated by almost anyone – fans of world/ethnic music (for obvious reasons); jazz (taqsim is the Arabic term for improvisation around an established theme, an important aspect of these pieces); and classical (for the Arabic classical elements in this music are strong). The recording quality, as in every ECM release I’ve ever heard, is exceptional and `trick’-free, presenting the music to the listener with as few barriers as possible.