Anouar BRAHEM – Le Pas Du Chat Noir 2002

Anouar BRAHEM – Le Pas Du Chat Noir 2002

Jazz

The Tunisian oud genius has done it again. Anouar Brahem has issued only five records under his own name over the past decade, each more adventurous than the last, without compromising his original vision: for the music of his region to meet with the other music of Africa and Asia and create a delirious sound that is equal thirds past, present, and future, along the precipice of historical lineage. For Brahem there is no attempt to synthesize the globe, or even the sounds of the East with those of the West. He is content in his knowledge that sound is infinite, and that his tradition, as it evolves and expands into a deeper pan-African/trans-Asian whole, is more than large enough for a master musician to rummage through in one lifetime. Astrakan Café, the follow-up to his brilliant Thimar, is a smaller-sounding recording that reaches farther into the deep crags of the Balkans. With Barbaros Erköse on clarinet and the Indian and Turkish percussion stylings of the professor of somber precision, Lassad Hosni, Brahem’s oud enters into a dialogue, musically, that has never before existed (though he has collaborated with both players previously). Erköse is a Turkish clarinetist of gypsy origin. His low, warm, rounded tones are consonant with the oud. Erköse plays equal parts music of the Balkan and Arab worlds with a tinge of the ancient klezmorim whispering their secrets through his horn. Despite the journeying these musicians do here, they never stray far from the takht, a small ensemble capable of improvising to the point of drunken ecstasy. Listening through Astrakan Café, you can hear the gypsy flamenco tied deeply to Indian ragas and even a kind of Eastern jazz. But there is no hyperactivity in it, no need to cram as many traditions as possible into one putridly excessive mix that expresses nothing but the novelty of the moment. Astrakan Café has many highlights: its two title tracks that have their roots in Russian and Azerbaijan music; “Ashkabad,” which is an improvisation on a melody from the folk music of Turkmenistan; “Astara,” a modal improvisation based on love songs from Azerbaijan; “Halfounie,” a segment from a Brahem-composed soundtrack inspired by the medina or marketplace in Tunis; and “Parfum de Gitanie,” which takes a fragment from Ethiopian sacred music, slows it to the point of stillness, and waxes lazily and jazzily over the top, with the oud and the clarinet trading syncopated eights. This is deeply personal, profound music. It is also highly iconographic, with timelessness woven through every measure. The only “exotica” on Astrakan Café is its “otherness” out of space and any discernable era. The tempos are languid and full of purpose, the dynamics clean and clearly demarcated, the tones and modes warm, rich, and linear. This would be traditional music if a tradition such as this — which is original, though adapted from many sources on inspiration  actually existed. Highly recommended
By Thom Jurek. AMG.
**
Anouar Brahem again ushers listeners into a sublime world that evidences a subdued, covert, but undeniable intensity of feeling and beauty. Forget all the allusions you may read here and elsewhere to other musics and eras, as so many fall into the comparison trap. Do not compare this work with French art music, Astor Piazzola, a pepperoni pizza, or anything else: accept and embrace this music on its own significant terms, and you will be abundantly rewarded. It stands entirely on its own!
Anouar Brahem’s melodies are beyond poignant, he elicits astoundingly empathetic contributions from his two colleagues on piano and accordion, respectively, and his own playing is always in the service of his overall conception. I repeat, do not let others demean this great work by insinuating it is relaxing, or good for meditation, or otherwise exists as musical wallpaper. As a famous classical pianist once remarked when asked what was harder to play, the fast pieces or the slow ones, he said (and I am paraphrasing) the fast tempos are easy; it is the slow ones that cause me difficulty. Miles Davis said much the same thing about ballads-he felt them so deeply that he could no longer play them. Thanks to ECM for giving Anouar Brahem a global audience, and to the man himself for incomparable music. I can’t wait for his next project.
By  Scott MacFaden.
**
Anouar Brahem- (Oud),
François Couturier- (Piano),
Jean-Louis Matinier- (Accordeon).

01. Le Pas Du Chat Noir 8:01
02. De Tout Ton Coeur 7:41
03. Leila Au Pays Du Carrousel 6:37
04. Pique-Nique À Nagpur 4:13
05. C’est Ailleurs 8:04
06. Toi Qui Sait 6:03
07. L’Arbre Qui Voit 6:13
08. Un Point Bleu 1:52
09. Les Ailes Du Bourak 4:54
10. Rue Du Départ 6:05
11. Leila Au Pays Du Carrousel, var. 5:39
12. Déjà La Nuit 5:10
**


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