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Thread: AAJ Review: Anouar Brahem, Blue Maqams

  1. #1

    AAJ Review: Anouar Brahem, Blue Maqams

    My review of Anouar Brahem' career milestone, Blue Maqams, today at All About Jazz.

    Following an unusually long, five-year gap between 2009's low register-driven The Astounding Eyes of Rita and 2014's particularly ambitious orchestral collaboration, Souvenance, Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem returns with Blue Maqams, another game-changing release on ECM Records. Change - or, in some cases, natural evolution - has never been hard to find on Brahem's previous nine albums for the label, the oudist's consistent home (barring his soundtrack to The Silences of the Palace, release in 1994 by Caroline) since his ethno-centric trio date, Barzakh (1991).

    Improvisation has always been a fundamental aspect to Brahem's music, whether in his sublime trio featuring double bassist Dave Holland and reed multi-instrumentalist John Surman on 1998's Thimar, or his similarly nuanced - but with pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier significantly altering its complexion - trio recording Le pas du chat noir (2002) and 2006 follow-up, Le Voyage de Sahar. Still, rarely have extemporization and group interaction featured so significantly in the forefront as on Blue Maqams. Following his in-concert revival of the Thimar trio with its first performance in twelve years at the 2011 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, followed by a reprise, the following year, at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, it may come as no surprise that Brahem has chosen to once again rekindle his relationship with Holland.

    Nor should it come as a surprise that, upon deciding to work with a "traditional" jazz rhythm section, the oudist has recruited drummer Jack DeJohnette. Holland and DeJohnette have a longstanding history together, as members of trumpeter Miles Davis' early '70s group, and they've continued to work together in various contexts across the decades, including a number of classic ECM recordings including trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's Deer Wan (1978j and a series of recordings, as the Gateway Trio, with recently deceased guitarist John Abercrombie.

    But when it came to finding a pianist for this recording, it was the serendipity of Manfred Eicher's decision to record pianist Django Bates' upcoming third album with his Danish Belovèd Trio, The Study of Touch - its first for the label, and which the producer/label head played for Brahem as the oudist was trying to settle on a pianist for the date - that proved the impetus to recruit the British pianist for Blue Maqams. Bates - no stranger to ECM fans for his two mid-to-late '80s recordings with First House, as well as two similarly overlooked gems by Norwegian vocal experimentalist Sidsel Endresen in the early 90s - proves more than an inspired choice for Blue Maqams.

    Continue reading here...
    John Kelman
    Senior Contributor, All About Jazz since 2004
    Freelance writer/photographer

  2. #2
    Yes, it is truly excellent, as are all of his other ones. I was recently turned on to him by another friend. Wow. Right in my wheelhouse
    And the code is a play, a play is a song, a song is a film, a film is a dance...


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