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Anouar Brahem: Blue Maqams

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: ECM Records
Released: 2017.10.13
Category: Jazz
Producer(s): Manfred Eicher
Media type: CD
Web address: www.anouarbrahem.com
Appears with: Jack De Johnette
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Opening Day (A.Brahem) - 6:56
[2] La Nuit (A.Brahem) - 10:28
[3] Blue Maqams (A.Brahem) - 8:41
[4] Bahia (A.Brahem) - 8:45
[5] La Passante (A.Brahem) - 4:05
[6] Bom Dia Rio (A.Brahem) - 9:23
[7] Persepolis's Mirage (A.Brahem) - 8:06
[8] The Recovered Road to Al-Sham (A.Brahem) - 9:26
[9] Unexpected Outcome (A.Brahem) - 10:59

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Anouar Brahem - Oud, Liner Notes
Django Bates - Piano
Jack DeJohnette - Drums
Dave Holland - Double Bass

Manfred Eicher - Producer
James A. Farber - Engineer
Nate Odden - Assistant Engineer
Sascha Kleis - Design
Max Franosch - Cover Photograpy
Bart Babinski - Liner Photograpy

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

Recorded in May 2017 at the Avatar Studios, New York.

2017 2xLP ECM Records ECM-2580 (576 7265)
2017 CD ECM Records ECM-2580 (576 9542)

Recorded in New York’s Avatar Studios in May 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher, Blue Maqams brings Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem together with three brilliant improvisers. For Anouar Brahem and Dave Holland the album marks a reunion: they first collaborated 20 years ago on the very widely-acclaimed Thimar album. Brahem meets Jack DeJohnette for the first time here, but Holland and DeJohnette have been frequent musical partners over the last half-century beginning with ground-breaking work with Miles Davis – their collaborations are legendary. British pianist Django Bates also rises superbly to the challenge of Brahem’s compositions. And Anouar in turn is inspired to some of his most outgoing playing. Blue Maqams is a highlight of ECM’s autumn season. Live appearances by the quartet will follow in 2018.

ECM Records

Other than a few cassettes in the 1980s, Tunisian oud master and composer Anouar Brahem has spent his entire career recording for ECM. The one exception was his score and soundtrack for the 1994 film Les Silences du Palais. In 2017, Brahem celebrated his 60th birthday with Blue Maqams, recorded at Avatar Studios in New York (a first) without his longstanding quartet of pianist François Couturier, bassist Björn Meyer, and bass clarinetist Klaus Gesing. With producer Manfred Eicher, Brahem assembled a band for this special date featuring bassist Dave Holland (who worked with the oudist on 1994's brilliant Thimar), drummer Jack DeJohnette (who has a nearly 50-year history with Holland), and British pianist Django Bates. The album title signifies the union between the incredibly complex Arabic modal and harmonic system and the "blue" so often evoked in jazz improvisation. Throughout, Brahem seamlessly combines the uncommon time signatures, sonic timbres, and whole-tone textures of Arabic music with the dynamic adventure of jazz improv. That premise is immediately put forth in the first track, "Opening Day." Brahem's haunting intro is joined by Holland's resonant playing inside of a minute, DeJohnette's cymbals increase the tempo, and Bates eventually transforms a spare modal ballad into an exercise in swing. The laid-back tom-tom groove DeJohnette establishes on the title track is an indicator. He's joined by the rest of the rhythm section before Brahem enters with a tender melody that swings gently. "Bahia" - on which Bates sits out - was previously recorded for Jan Garbarek's Madar. It commences with an oud solo accompanied by Brahem's humming, and opens onto a full-on jazz trio conversation. The oudist uses the scalar maqam ballad style as his rhythm section delivers grooving support in contrast. "Bom Dia Rio" is almost skeletal, while the oud develops the melody with Brahem's wordless vocalizing in accompaniment. When his bandmates enter, it twists and turns into a sprightly - if moody - 10/8 groover. On "Persepolis's Mirage," Brahem turns in some of his knottiest playing before the quartet delivers a processional Arabic melody augmented with layers of rhythmic invention. Bates adds fills from his instrument's lower and middle registers, providing weight and texture, but it's Brahem's meaty playing that ultimately shines. "The Recovered Road to Al-Sham" is an oud/piano duet that brilliantly juxtaposes Western chamber and Arabic classical music. "Unexpected Outcome" offers a moody lyric mode from Holland and Brahem before cracking open into an 11-minute, full-blown quartet jazz jam. There are excellent solos from each member and plenty of blue accents. Bates' elliptical chordal statements and fills add an elegant flourish in a closing statement to both the track and the album. Blue Maqams is lovely. It's a nearly perfect illustration of balance between cultural and musical inquiry, underscored by the confidence and near symbiotic communication of this gifted ensemble. This is an exceptional outing, even for an artist as accomplished and creative as Brahem.

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek

Eight years have passed since oud-improviser and composer Anouar Brahem’s vivid ECM album The Astounding Eyes of Rita, but the silence hasn’t muted the Tunisian maestro’s jazz enthusiasms. This glitzy lineup features his bass-playing soulmate Dave Holland, drums star Jack DeJohnette, and a wild card in the form of the UK’s Django Bates on piano. The result achieves a spellbinding balance between gently melodic Mediterranean song forms and the one-touch rhythmic elasticity and melodic ingenuity of the best jazz. The presence of Bates (producer Manfred Eicher’s idea, Brahem never having heard the English maverick before) is an inspiration, for his lyrical restraint, creative spaciousness, and diverse references. Brahem’s oud often sketches in the themes, sometimes shadowed by the others in dreamy twilight reflections, more often accelerating into languidly swaying nightwalks such as the title track. Spanish-tinged guitar-like jams end in drum flurries, while thumping Holland bass vamps release scintillating jazz breakouts, as on the throbbing Persepolis’s Mirage, with its visionary Bates piano break. It’s a real meeting of hearts and minds.

John Fordham - 19 October 2017
© 2017 Guardian News

The Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem has assembled a new band for this set of improvisations (albeit highly composed improvisations), one with impeccable jazz credentials: Dave Holland on double bass, Jack DeJohnette on percussion, and Django Bates on piano. The result is Brahem’s best set since Le Pas Du Chat Noir. Brahem’s usual pianist, François Courturier, is a dappled Impressionist; Bates, by contrast, has a tricksy swing, especially on “Bom Dia Rio”. The syncopations between oud and double bass on “Bahia” give Brahem, always mesmerising, a new sense of freedom and fun.

Rating: 4/5.

David Honigmann - October 13, 2017
© 2017 Financial Times

Anlässlich Anouar Brahems 60sten Geburtstags, bietet Blue Maqams vielerlei Gründe zum feiern. Das im Mai 2017 in den New Yorker Avatar Studios von Manfred Eicher produzierte Album, bringt den tunesischen Oud-Meister mit drei brillanten Improvisatoren zusammen. Das „Maqams“ im Titel bezieht sich auf das modale System in der arabischen Musik, das von den Jazzmusikern hier „kind of blue“ gemacht wird. Für Anouar Brahem und Dave Holland stellt das Album eine Wiedervereinigung dar: Sie arbeiteten vor 20 Jahren auf dem allseits gelobten Album Thimar zusammen. Brahem und Jack DeJohnette begegnen sich hier zum ersten Mal, Holland und DeJohnette allerdings waren im letzten halben Jahrhundert häufig Partner, angefangen mit ihrer bahnbrechenden Arbeit für Miles Davis – ihre Gemeinschaftsarbeiten sind legendär. Auch der britische Pianist Django Bates wird der Herausforderung durch Brahems Kompositionen auf superbe Weise gerecht. Anouar selbst wiederum, zeigt sich hier zu seinem ausdrucksstärksten Spiel inspiriert.


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