Brahem is a Tunisian oud player and a thoroughly modern musician who seeks to meld his Arabic classical music background with many other streams of music. This disc from the unusual trio of instruments touches on the music of Parisian cafes, flamenco, Balkan music and of course modern jazz. During his years in Paris Brahem contacted ECM’s Manfred Eicher and has since collaborated on several albums for the label – the one which made the most impression on me was Le pas du chat noir of 2002. The NY Times described the trio as evoking “a 21st century Andalusia in which European and Arab sensibilities have merged so profoundly that the borders between them have disappeared.” I suppose it’s quite a stretch now to think of that ever actually happening.
Both of Brahem’s bandmates are major figures in jazz in Europe. Pianist Couturier won France’s Django Reinhardt Prize and toured with John McLaughlin’s groups. Matinier was originally a classical accordionist who has played with other ECM artists Gianluigi Trovesi and Enrico Rava. All the compositions are by Brahem, including new versions of three of his most-requested ones. (They are listed below with the Var. suffix.) The note booklet is one of those all-photo ECM booklets without any notes on the music or musicians. But they’re good photos.
This is wonderful disc which produces highly unexpected but atmospheric music out of a rather odd trio of players. There used to be an Arabic cafe on the Portland waterfront where people sat smoking hookas. I never found out what they were smoking in them but whatever it was this music would go with that scene perfectly!
Tracks: Sur le fleuve, Le Voyage de Sahar, L’Aube, Vague / E la nave Var., Les jardins de Ziryab, Nuba, La Chambre, Cordoba, Halfaquine, La chambre Var., Zarabanda, Été Andalous, Vague Var.
– John Sunier