Archive for the ‘Anouar Brahem’ Category
This is another of the Norwegian Jan Garbarek’s international stylistic fusion projects, this time combining his saxophone work with the oud playing of Brahem and the tablas of Hussain. Such beautifully elegant, yet dramatic music! Brahem’s playing in particular is sensational (for those who have not heard the oud played, this is a stringed instrument with a sound something like a dulled lute). The music itself is rather serious, even sombre-sounding at times, but out of this rather dark North African ambience regularly emerge flashes of focussed energy that will, as they say, knock your socks off. A strangely ignored album that deserves much more attention than it has received.
Anouar Brahem is a Tunisian who is one of the leading present exponents of the oud, a lute-like stringed instrument. Brahem’s music is anything but ‘exponent’-sounding, however–he makes regular excursions into the world of jazz and crossover (a project of some years back with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek was wonderful), along with recording pieces with a more traditional sound. This cd is langorous and exotic-sounding with a good bit of a jazz feel thrown in for good measure; it is mostly quiet, introspective and wandering (even ambient), with occasional explosions of what might be termed “rhythmic urgency.” It frankly takes a bit of getting used to, but if you like unpretentious, intimate music and can get into this particular blend of North African instrumentation (oud, clarinet, nai flute, and bendir and darbouka), you may well find it very attractive.
Even if you’re familiar with Brahem’s exquisite mastery of the oud AND his proclivity for mixing it up with the likes of John Surman, Zakir Hussein or Jan Garberek, you’ll still be amazed & astonished to hear Khomsa.This cd combines Brahem’s oud with accordion, piano, synth, sax, violin, bass & drums for a collection of beautiful compositions Brahem wrote for Tunisian theater & cinema during the ’80’s & ’90’s. It’s suprising how well the various instrumental combinations work. On Khomsa Brahem is interested in the composition foremost, and often the oud takes a back seat for long stretches of music.
Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem counts as one of ECM’s most important “discoveries” of the last decade. After his highly successful trans-cultural recording ‘Thimar’, he returns to a more purely Middle Eastern music on ‘Astrakan Cafe’, with the trio that has been his first priority for several years. The improvisational exchanges between Brahem, clarinettist Barbaros Erköse and percussionist Lassad Hosni are exceptionally fluid, and the atmospheres that they create by turns mysterious, hypnotic and dramatic.
Anouar Brahem – (oud), Barbaros Erköse – (clarinet), Lassad Hosni – (bendir, darbouka)
Middle East-meets-West fusions, heralded under a jazz banner, are nearly always scary. Scary in the sense that, instead of the musicians synthesizing their cultural traditions in a magical gestalt, the result is usually a watered-down pastiche of the kind of easy-listening exotica typically peddled by audiophile labels or stacked next to the patchouli bin at the incense shop. It’s embarrassing, especially if you know how mindbending the real stuff can be. Anouar Brahem, who plays the Arabic stringed instrument called the oud, isn’t scary or embarrassing. But the genre in which he participates is so suspect it takes a while to appreciate the value of his latest album. Recorded with master Brit improvisors John Surman (soprano saxophone and bass clarinet) and Dave Holland (bass), Thimar is never less than beautiful, and is often haunting in its subtle chemistry, which quietly evokes glimmers of blues moods within stately Arabic-themed progressions. Surman’s soprano playing fails to fully erase thoughts of Kenny G, but Holland’s exquisite touch both plucking and bowing repeatedly compels attention. The bassist lends a structural integrity to these pieces that makes it hard to dismiss them as kitsch. Still, there’s something so consistently softcore about this concept that the album seems almost destined to be used as background music.
Charmediterranéen (“Mediterranean Spell”) was the initial project Paolo Damiani conceived during his two-year tenure as the artistic and musical director of France’s Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ). According to the Italian bassist, cellist and composer, it was “inspired by the sea which, like music, moves fluidly and can seep into and unite rigid and separate worlds”. It features melodies and rhythms infused with the charm, warmth and sensuality one naturally associates with the Mediterranean. But the album has its tempestuous and tumultuous moments as well in sections that conjure up images of the powerful “scirocco” and “maestrale” winds that constantly buffet the region.
It is the first ECM album by the French big band celebrated as an important institution in contemporary jazz. Founded in 1986 at the instigation of the French Ministry of Culture, the Orchestre National de Jazz has had a distinguished career with projects stressing the strength of French improvising and the potential for collaboration with musicians of other cultures. Among the guest musicians who have played with the ensemble are Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, Carla Bley, Jeanne Lee, and Maria Schneider.
On this disc, the ONJ is joined by two artists familiar to ECM listeners: Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem, and Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi, whose ‘In Cerca di Cibo’ was one of the runaway hits of recent yearss.
‘Charmediteranéen’ is a live recording, made at Montbéliard. In the live context, Mediterranean-related video projections – selected by long-time ECM associate Roberto Masotti – also influenced the flow of the music. (Some of this material is shown in the striking CD booklet). The musical material is very wide-ranging, touching on reference points including Arab modes (Brahem’s contribution) and Monteverdi (quoted by Trovesi) as well as the entire jazz big band tradition.
Personnel: Paul Damiani – (cello, artistic and musical direction), Orchestre National de Jazz, Anouar Brahem – (oud), Gianluigi Trovesi – (piccolo clarinet, alto saxophone)
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.