The Upshot: Masterfully performed and arranged, and a world/jazz record of great beauty and fire.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
For Blue Maqams, his tenth LP on the venerable ECM label, Tunesian oudist Anouar Brahem shifts away from the grand concepts that drove his previous album Souvenance, instead convening a jazz trio. And what an ensemble it is, too. Veteran British pianist Django Bates (Bill Bruford, Tim Berne) takes the chordal helm, with Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland – perhaps the greatest living rhythm section in jazz – providing supple support. Melody rules here; Brahem’s ability to blend jazz changes with the Middle Eastern tonalities of his homeland gives each song a distinctive tone, accessible yet challenging. “La Nuit” illustrates this well, as Bates provides lush comping and countermelodies, allowing Brahem to quietly soar. “Persepolis’s Mirage” layers Brahem’s smoky twang over subtle cymbals and Holland’s insistently bluesy bass, while “Unexpected Outcome” puts Bates in the driver’s seat for some rippling solos. The rhythm-driven “Bahia” finds common ground between Middle Eastern dance music and Brazilian bossa nova. “Bom Dia Rio” puts it all together for a veritable explosion of intricate melody and telepathic improvisation. Masterfully performed and arranged, Blue Maqams is a record of great beauty and fire.
DOWNLOAD: “Bom Dia Rio,” “Bahia,” “Persepolis’s Mirage”