Anouar Brahem: Khomsa (ECM 1561)

Anouar Brahem
Khomsa

Anouar Brahem oud
Richard Galliano accordion
François Couturier piano, synthesizer
Jean-Marc Larché soprano saxophone
Béchir Selmi violin
Palle Danielsson double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded September 1994 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Anouar Brahem’s third leader date for ECM explores the oud player’s incidental music for Tunisian film and theatre as interpreted by a shifting nexus of musicians, new and old alike. His compositional side takes precedence this time around, for it is accordionist Richard Galliano who lights the foreground with “Comme un depart” and hardly recedes until “Des rayons et des ombres,” the latter a superbly jazzy romp with Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. Bassist and drummer, respectively, add buoyancy to “E la nave va” and “Aïn ghazel,” culminating in the shadow of Jean-Marc Larché’s soprano for the title track. Galliano continues to somersault through the airspace of “Souffle un vent de sable.” Only here does the oud awaken, as if from long hibernation, its lips dry and puckered for the quench of a distant rain. Brahem deepens the sincerity of his instrument in “L’infini jour” with a twang that aches from the power of re-creation. He and Galliano flirt with the same watery surface in “Sur l’infini bleu,” the first of a handful of duets that also includes the animated “Claquent les voiles” (Brahem/Danielsson). “Vague” and its “Nouvelle” counterpart blossom with a piano that recalls the opening section of Philip Glass’s Glassworks, carrying over into the ensemble-oriented folktale of “Seule.” Larché questions the night in “Un sentier d’alliance,” where he is answered by the sparkling reflections of François Couturier’s pianism, only to be picked up by violin in “Comme une absence” before sliding into blissful self-awareness.

Khomsa is an inspired meeting, each musician highlighting a different curl of Brahem’s calligraphic art. This may not be his most consistent effort, but I discourage you from passing it up.

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