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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: The Astounding Eyes of Rita

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The Astounding Eyes of Rita rings to life on four resonant notes from Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem, joined in short order by the deep, rich tone of Klaus Gesing's bass clarinet. The music sounds ancient, like something from an old civilization, full of past truths that still hold true. Manfred Eicher, the man in charge at ECM Records, has been known to inspire, from talented artists, consistently beautiful and sometimes eccentric (American ethno-centricity speaking) music from unusual instrumental combinations. His ECM sound--with notable exceptions including Keith Jarrett's Standard Trio and Trio Beyond, to name two--leans toward spaciousness and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: The Astounding Eyes of Rita

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In the world of the oud--the fretless, Middle Eastern incarnation of the lute--there are three artists who are moving the instrument--and its centuries-old tradition--forward. Tunisian-born Dhafer Youssef has explored the integration of technology and western classicism on Divine Shadows (Jazzland, 2006), while Lebanese-born Rabih Abou-Khalil has investigated a nexus with horn-driven large ensemble on The Cactus of Knowledge (Enja, 2001). Anouar Brahem, since first emerging on ECM with Barzakh (1991), has explored more nuanced territory, between his longstanding Astrakan Café group and projects like Thimar (ECM, 1998), where Middle Eastern linearity and Western harmony were conjoined, and the chamber setting ...

INTERVIEWS

Anouar Brahem: Innovative Weaver of Musical Heritages

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Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem's eighth solo release, Voyage de Sahar (ECM, 2006), is another testimony to the magnificent way that he manages to weave influences and references from the rich and beautiful heritage of Arabic world with elements of Andalusian music and modern jazz, and to the innovative way in which Brahem suggests the oud as a leading instrument in Western and Arabic music. For the first time in his 15-year relationship with the prestigious German ECM label, Brahem recorded with the same musicians who recorded his last release for label, Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM, 2002)--French pianist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Le Voyage de Sahar

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Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem has recorded for ECM since 1990; Le Pas du Chat Noir (2002) achieved the most critical acclaim. The trio which made that record comes together again for Le Voyage de Sahar, creating an understated tour de force that builds on the former album. While the “ECM sound" very much helps create the feeling, the image of a spotlight on the trio, otherwise surrounded by darkness, playing to a massive, totally silent, mesmerized audience, keeps appearing. The music creates an intense intimacy as the trio explores a relatively small musical space very deeply. Each ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Le Voyage de Sahar

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Many of ECM's standout albums are a result of rich confluences of jazz, classical and world music sensibilities. The authors of those albums have a thorough, deep knowledge and understanding of each tradition, and most of the time the intersections between the different traditions are blessed with good results.

Such is the case with Anouar Brahem. His music clearly dwells in different worlds, deeply rooted in Arabic music yet very open to influences from jazz and classical traditions, among others. Brahem is a master of the oud, the Arabian lute, and he is regarded as Tunisia's most innovative player on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Le Voyage de Sahar

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Anouar Brahem's last international release, Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM, 2002), was something of a watershed for the Tunisian oudist. Earlier records like Khomsa (ECM, 1995) and Thimar (ECM, 1998) found him exploring the nexus between traditional Middle Eastern harmonies and a more open-minded improvisational approach with artists like reed player John Surman, bassists Dave Holland and Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen. But Le Pas du Chat Noir placed a stronger emphasis on composition and influences that went well beyond Brahem's own ethnic roots. Le Voyage de Sahar reunites Brahem with accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier--known to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem Trio: Le Voyage de Sahar

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Tunisian master Anouar Brahem plays the oud, an eleven or twelve-string lute at the center of small-group Arabic classical music; he has impressive credentials in the jazz domain, having recorded with Jan Garbarek, John Surman and David Holland. Le Voyage de Sahar is Brahem's eighth original ECM release as a leader, and his second with a trio filled out by pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier.

On the aural evidence of this new record, Brahem is also an artist at a creative crossroads. Two paths are open to him. He could opt to expand the tonal palette of Western ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Le Pas du Chat Noir

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Anouar Brahem knows perfectly the formula to condense in the air the fragrance of incense, the visual impression of an orange-colored sky over the adobe terraces in Tunis, and a sea of reminiscences shaken up by his melodies. His music seems to be languid, but its lassitude takes you in, absorbs you, and softly converts any emotion that could seem instantaneous and banal unless the notes of his oud didn't float in the air.

On his seventh album recorded for ECM, Brahem blendes the sounds of Khomsa (ECM, 1995) and Thimar (ECM, 1998)--in which he experimented with the approach between ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Le Pas Du Chat Noir

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The outstanding clarity of Anouar Brahem's new trio record demonstrates the composer's ability to combine several cultural influences without sounding contrived or disjointed. For this project, Brahem composed 12 pieces for the most unusual combination of piano, accordion, and oud (a type of lute). The music came out of a long period of listening and composing on piano in Tunis, where Brahem found himself unable to return to his voice on the oud after an intense session for 1997's Thimar. As he developed his ideas, Brahem returned to the oud and assembled a final version which also includes pianist François ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Thimar

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The oud is an ancient short-necked, plucked Arabic instrument. On Thimar, East meets West with oud instrumentalist Anouar Brahem along with jazz masters, saxophonist/bass clarinetist John Surman and bassist Dave Holland. The opener, “Badhra," commences with Surman's light as a feather soprano work while Holland and Brahem successively join the festivities as if they were doing one of those “let's introduce the band" exercises. “Taiwin" leans toward the Arabic end of the spectrum as Holland and Brahem perform Middle Eastern unison lines. Holland's rich, exuberant sound provides a huge bottom for Surman and Brahem while also providing tonal color and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Anouar Brahem: Thimar

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Once again ECM expands the boundaries of jazz. This brings up the question of whether this music is jazz, and purists would argue that it's not: no blues, no standards, no drums. Why not go all the way and decry the absence of banjo and tuba? The fact is that there are elements of jazz here, including group improvisation, rhythmic propulsion, and two established jazz players, Surman and Holland. But the listener who appreciates this release will be someone who likes music which is original and thoughtful, enjoys the exoticism of the references to the music of North Africa, and ...



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