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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ANOUAR BRAHEM

Souvenance

ECM 379 7776

 

 

CD1

  1. Improbable day

  2. Ashen sky

  3. Deliverance

  4. Souvenance

  5. Tunis at dawn

  6. Youssef's song

CD2

  1. January

  2. Like a dream

  3. On the road

  4. Kasserine

  5. Nouvelle vague

Anouar Brahem - Oud

Franšois Couturier - Piano

Klaus Gesing - Bass clarinet

Bj÷rn Meyer - Bass

Orchestra della Svizzera italiana:

Pietro Mianiti - Conductor

ECM have a reputation for exploring the borderlands between classical, jazz and world music and here is a disc which sits comfortably within that territory. The principal instrument is the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument of great antiquity, which in its modern form shares a common ancestry with the lute. Anouar Brahem is an outstanding practitioner and an acknowledged master of the modern oud. Now 57 years of age, he was born in Tunisia and has been, as he says, deeply affected by the events of 'The Arab Spring' as it played out in his native land. (More recently there has been fresh turmoil there.) If not directly connected, his compositions are set against that background. He recorded with Franšois Couturier, his pianist on this disc, back in 2002 and 2006 and with Klaus Gesing, his bass clarinettist and Bj÷rn Meyer, his bass player, on his previous CD for ECM in 2008, The Astounding Eyes of Rita.

I found the music itself, all of it composed by Brahem himself, often beautiful and always interesting. On the first CD three tracks in particular stood out for me. Deliverance features some great playing by Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet. Brahem, as always, has a sure touch and there is flowing piano from Couturier and vigorous support from Meyer on bass. Tunis at dawn is a lovely, lightly swinging, melody treated exquisitely by Brahem and Gesing especially. Youssef's song is some way in before Brahem's expressive playing can be heard but,in any case, I was able to enjoy the other musicians in the group as this dreamy number unfolded. On the second disc,

I got a lot of pleasure from January where there is hypnotic piano and bass, the fluent and skilful oud and what's more, the accompanying orchestra, taking a full part in creating a thing of beauty. I loved Like a dream as a vehicle for Brahem's admirable demonstration of his range and talent and Gesing, once more, showing what a class act he is. Kasserine sounds as if it was composed for the cinema, a genre not unfamiliar to Brahem, and offers an extended improvisation on the oud as well as the effective use of the orchestral strings.

Everything on the two discs deserves attention, though some listeners may find the overall effect not robust enough for their taste. For me, however, it is one I'll return to, time and again. Those already familiar with Brahem's work will need no incentive to add this to their collection!

James Poore



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