185

Joachim Kühn / Majid Bekkas / Ramon Lopez: Chalaba

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
The sleeve notes to Chalaba describe German pianist and alto saxophonist Joachim Kühn as a veteran "of the conscious avant-garde." This is certainly accurate—he's worked with Archie Shepp and Ornette Coleman, among others—but the description sounds rather forbidding, a portent of some serious and complex sounds for the mind but not the body. Thankfully it misleads: for while Kühn, vocalist and guembri player Majid Bekkas, and percussionist Ramon Lopez do produce some serious music, they also create some splendidly joyous tunes as well. Drawing on their combined roots in the musics of Spain, Morocco, Northern Europe and North America, these three musicians know how to deliver music that is thoughtful but also danceable.

Chalaba is the trio's third album, following Kalimba (ACT Music, 2007) and Out Of The Desert (ACT Music, 2009). The latter featured additional Gnawa musicians from Morroco, Bekkas' homeland, and Benin but Chalaba returns to the simpler line up of the first album. This gives a more spacious feel to the music, more freedom for the individual musicians, and a little more stylistic variation.

This variation is immediately apparent on Kühn and Bekkas' joint composition "Enjoy," which combines Lopez' reggae influenced percussion, Kühn's rolling piano phrases and Bekkas' fluid vocal and strident, funky guembri into an insistently danceable tune. Bekkas' "Asmaa" is dedicated to his daughter and flows beautifully, with a touch of flamenco and, thanks to Lopez' tabla playing, a flavor of Indian percussion. Kühn's "Back to Normal" and "The Second Egg" are more distinctly drawn from his avant-garde roots: Bekkas' guembri playing could almost be mistaken for a double bass on these tracks as he underpins Kühn and Lopez' delicate interplay.

The trio composition "Soon in June" begins with a duet between Bekkas' voice and Kühn's alto saxophone before Lopez bursts in, Bekka's takes up his guembri and things kick off in a serious fashion. It's the album's most visceral piece; powerful and affecting. Kühn's "Play Golf in the Fresh Air" is equally powerful, but more humorous, a driving, rock-influenced tune that bowls along with good-natured danceability and a slight air of mystery. The 66-year-old Kühn, by the way, is at pains to point out that none of the band plays golf: "We're still too young for that."

Track Listing: Enjoy; Asmaa; Back to Normal; Play Golf in the Fresh Air; Chalaba; Soon in June; Hamdouchia; The Second Egg; Momoun Saadiyamou.

Personnel: Joachim Kühn: piano, alto saxophone; Majid Bekkas: vocals, guembri, oud; Ramon Lopez: drums, tabla, percussion.

Title: Chalaba | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: ACT Music


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Rev CD/LP/Track Review Rev
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren CD/LP/Track Review The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 16, 2017
Read Any Other Way CD/LP/Track Review Any Other Way
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Il sistema periodico" CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Fistfight At The Barndance" CD/LP/Track Review Fistfight At The Barndance
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 14, 2017
Read "A Wing Dissolved In Light" CD/LP/Track Review A Wing Dissolved In Light
by John Sharpe
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "Pastures" CD/LP/Track Review Pastures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "Carol Morgan Quartet - Post Cool Vol. 1 The Night Shift" CD/LP/Track Review Carol Morgan Quartet - Post Cool Vol. 1 The Night Shift
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 14, 2017
Read "Rhythmic Movement" CD/LP/Track Review Rhythmic Movement
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 22, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.