Garbarek/Brahem/Hussain: Madar (ECM 1515)

Madar

Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones
Anouar Brahem oud
Ustad Shaukat Hussain tabla
Recorded August 1992 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Following in the footsteps of Ragas and Sagas, which found Jan Garbarek in the seemingly unlikely company of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan to uplifting effect, the Norwegian saxophonist continued to expand his horizons with Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem and tablaist Ustad Shaukat Hussain on Madar. The three bond naturally in the lengthy “Sull lull,” a nearly 17-minute prayer of keen and sensible interaction for which Hussain brings constant airflow and foils Garbarek’s chameleonic talents superbly. It is one of two tracks based on folk melodies of Garbarek’s native land. The other is the saxophone/oud duet “Joron.” Madar serves in this vein as an internal conversation between the two instruments, their sounds speaking to one another like rocks from a river’s touch. Together they become a pair of hands etching stories into a stretch of hide, twisting incantations until they bleed light (“Sebika”) and dark (“Ramy”). As they continue to circle overhead, surveying a landscape of withering sin, they bring out something unknown in one another.

Despite the loveliness of these interactions, the album works best in solitary. Brahem’s contemplative solo, “Bahia,” treks over twilit mountains with aching footsteps, carrying us as if by palanquin into a vale of lost intentions. The wind of his percussiveness shakes the boughs of leafless trees and sends their dead seeds clicking to the ground like sand against a window. And in the rhythmic cast of “Jaw,” Hussain emotes lifetimes in a single beat of his tabla, thus offering some intensely lucid moments. He returns to the fold in “Qaws,” giving voice to those waiting eyes at last with solid excitement. An odd piano “Epilogue” (sounding like a chord outline for a studio track left behind) leads us out.

A word to the wise: Garbarek reaches some of his most piquant levels ever here, so intense that you may find yourself needing to lower the volume at peak moments. This may antagonize some, but in the end couldn’t we all do with a little awakening?

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