The atmosphere created by this CD is nothing short of incredible. The mix of Western and Middle Eastern styles could have been a disaster, but here seems perfectly natural, and I believe this is due to the restraint in the playing, allowing each instrument to be heard individually and also as a complement to the others. I have a feeling that the musicians knew they were creating something very unique and special as they were recording. I get the same feeling each time I listen. Accessible, engaging, relaxing, superb.
I bought this CD when it was first released, hanging around in Oxford Street's Virgin Megastore Jazz department and being over-taken by the sheer cool ambience the music generates. The mixture of jazz and middle-Eastern influences is wonderful. It's a CD you can put on a low volume and chill-out, or conversely you can crank-it-up to by fully engaged by the soundstage, as the three musicians play bass, wind and strings. I gave my copy to a friend for his birthday, and I'll now replace it from Amazon. Buy it. Let it engage you.
Anouar Brahem is an unsung hero of ECM. I have never heard a less than excellent recording from him and each recording is accessible but weighty and rewards repeated listening. This is possibly his most jazzy recording: John Surman's saxophone is at once both Eastern and English in its feel (compare it to the Turkish clarinet on Astrakan Café) and his serene tone in the beginning of the concluding Hulmu Rabia even sounds like the Hilliard Ensemble.
Bill Holland gives a double bass master class. From the very first bowed notes of the opening "Bhadra", which complement Surman's improvisations perfectly, he provides the anchor to "Thimar" with some wonderfully felicitous melodic yet rhythmic playing.
Brahem is such a democrat that at times he can seem to be playing second fiddle (or should that be third oud) to the others ("Waqt" is a Surman solo). However the balance of the three instruments is exemplary, each coming from a different tradition and yet sounding so "simpatico".
Brahem's current trio with Francois Couturier on piano and Jean-Louis Matinier on accordion is equally excellent but this is perhaps the best place for jazzers to begin.
Besides his collaborations with musicians from the Middle East/Turkey (Astrakan Café, The Astounding Eyes of Rita, Conte de l`incroyable amour and Barzakh), Brahem teamed up with western musicians. Thimar and Madar see Brahem playing with saxophonists (John Surman and Jan Garbarek respectively) with sometimes mixed results. Thimar also has bassist Dave Holland playing and, to my mind, works better than Madar as it is quieter and allows more of Brahem`s oud to emerge. Surman`s sax is, as ever, utterly distinctive and Holland`s bass, as ever, is wonderful. Anouar Brahem is one of the best-selling artists on ECM, a record label that over the decades has pushed the boundaries of jazz and world-fusion - and provided great music in the process. To me, Brahem is the epitome of all the label represents. His nine or so albums with ECM, beginning with Barzakh in 1990, offer sublime music found nowhere else. The exotic images he draws with his intricate oud playing is always beautifully recorded and his musical collaborations are always fascinating. Lovely stuff.
Wonderfully spacious music. Brahem's oud interplays with double bass and sax in slowly evolving patterns. Music to contemplate by, the kind of music that undramatically fills spaces. Shades of all sorts of influences from around the Mediterranean. Music to paint or write by.
In the notes to this CD it is argued that Jazz has its roots in African Music and African music, at least Northern African Music traces its roots back to Middle Easter Music ( and Islamic music ). We have Brahem, from Tunisia, Surman from England and Holland from England all coming together in the most startlingly refreshing way. Holland's bass playing takes on a new lyrical dimension, showing that this former Miles Davis sideman has a real 'depth' of understanding. Surman brings his folk and Jazz interests and brings something to the mix while Brahem ( the composer ) gently coaxes us into paths that we might have missed had we not stopped to listen. It starts somewhere between Europe and North Africa and takes you on a journey far away into a still, quiet and spiritual place.