All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

12

Anouar Brahem: Blue Maqams

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Tunisian oudist/composer Anouar Brahem has been playing with jazz improvisers since the 1980s. But his earliest ECM recordings, Barzakh (1991) and Conte de l'Incroyable Amour (1992) stayed firmly in the Arabic music tradition. His recordings with jazz players began with Madar (1994) with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and tabla player Shaukat Hussain; Thimar (1997) with bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist John Surman made a fuller synthesis of both traditions. Blue Maqams takes the approach further, bringing Brahem's Arabic music to a full jazz band treatment (1995's Khomsa had a full jazz rhythm section, but was a stylistically different large ensemble with accordion).

The word "maqams" in the title refers to the system of melodic modes used in Arab music. Brahem has never considered himself to be a jazz musician, but he finds common ground with jazz improvisers. "Opening Day" opens with solo oud, joined by Holland's bass, then finally drummer Jack DeJohnette as the theme is introduced. Pianist Django Bates (Loose Tubes, Bill Bruford's Earthworks) makes his entry a couple of minutes in, at first in gentle call and response with the oud. "La Nuit" is mainly an oud/piano duet (an approach repeated on "La Passante"). Bates' delicate unaccompanied piano solo leads into a new theme, and a memorable bass solo.

"Bahia" is one of two older tunes revisited here. It has a very memorable theme, and there's an energetic oud/drums duet at the end: a space for the otherwise restrained DeJohnette to let loose. "The Unrecovered Road To Al-Sham" again demonstrates what a good choice Bates was for the piano chair. He opens the tune unaccompanied, which is followed by an unaccompanied oud solo—the rhythm section comes in for the last couple minutes. "Unexpected Outcome" ends the set with an oud/bass opening. When the rhythm section joins in there is an uncredited vocal, as there was on "Bom Dia Rio" (I'm guessing Brahem), and an extended piano solo over a vamp, joined by Brahem's oud at the end. It's an energetic ending to a collection of music with a broad emotional range.

This is the closest thing to a jazz recording Brahem has made—but it is still completely his own vision, aided by an exceptionally sympathetic group of players. Holland continues to demonstrate the fit shown previously on Thimar, as well as his easy pairing with longtime rhythm section partner DeJohnette. DeJohnette successfully negotiates the difficult dynamic balance with the much softer oud. And Bates—whose recent ECM debut The Study Of Touch was the recording that convinced Brahem to choose him—is the real wild card of the session, his beautiful, imaginative playing illuminating Brahem's compositions at every turn.

Track Listing: Opening Day; La Nuit; Blue Maqams; Bahia; La Passante; Bom Dia Rio; Persepoli's Mirage; The Recovered Road to Al-Sham; Unexpected Outcome.

Personnel: Anouar Brahem: oud; Dave Holland: upright bass; Jack De Johnette: drums; Django Bates: piano.

Title: Blue Maqams | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
Read more articles
Blue Maqams

Blue Maqams

ECM Records
2017

buy
Souvenance

Souvenance

ECM Records
2015

buy
 

Vague

ECM Records
2003

buy
Le Pas Du Chat Noir

Le Pas Du Chat Noir

ECM Records
2002

buy

Related Articles

Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Contemporary Chaos Practices CD/LP/Track Review
Contemporary Chaos Practices
by Don Phipps
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Changed Beings CD/LP/Track Review
Changed Beings
by Chris May
Published: November 16, 2018
Read We Must Mustn't We CD/LP/Track Review
We Must Mustn't We
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One That Is You. CD/LP/Track Review
Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One...
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Always Forward CD/LP/Track Review
Always Forward
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "Making Other Arrangements" CD/LP/Track Review Making Other Arrangements
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!" CD/LP/Track Review You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 7, 2018
Read "Spirit of Gaia" CD/LP/Track Review Spirit of Gaia
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 29, 2018
Read "Powell To The People" CD/LP/Track Review Powell To The People
by Jim Worsley
Published: May 16, 2018
Read "Barxeta II" CD/LP/Track Review Barxeta II
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 19, 2018
Read "The Mugician" CD/LP/Track Review The Mugician
by Thomas Earl
Published: February 1, 2018