“If every band projects an image of community, then Mr Brahem’s trio – part takht, part jazz trio, part chamber ensemble, evokes a kind of 21st century Andalusia, in which European and Arab sensibilities have merged so profoundly that the borders between them have disappeared. The image may be utopian, but its beauty is undeniable.”
Adam Shatz, New York Times
Anouar Brahem, born in Halfaouine, Tunisia in 1957, is regarded as his country’s most innovative oud player. As a former pupil of master oudist Ali Sriti, he is thoroughly steeped in the secrets and subtleties of Arab classical music. He has absorbed this information and gone out to meet the world, a sophisticated modern musician with profound historical knowledge.
During his years in Paris in the early 1980s, jazz claimed Brahem’s attention and his fascination for music on ECM led him to contact producer Manfred Eicher. Since 1990 their creative relationship has resulted in the albums “Barzakh”, “Conte de l’Incroyable Amour”, “Madar” (with Jan Garbarek), “Khomsa”, “Thimar” (with John Surman and Dave Holland), “Astrakan café”, and “Le pas du chat noir”, as well as the anthology “Vague” (released in France only). All of these discs have received a great deal of critical praise, none more so than “Le pas du chat noir”, recorded 2002, which represented a giant step forward for Brahem as composer as well as player. Admirers of the music offered by Brahem with François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier were mesmerised by its gently-swaying insistence and the way Anouar’s pieces, while still rooted in Arab modes, seemed to find points of contact with other forms.
Acoustic Guitar magazine called Brahem/Couturier/Matinier “the oddest trio ever to play contemporary Arabic music”, before going on to laud the work: “The result is far more than an expression of Arabic traditions; echoes of Satie, Paris cafés, flamenco, and Balkan music infuse the melodies. Accordion, oud and piano continually exchange roles, each providing melody, rhythm, and ornamental filigree.” London’s Time Out spoke of “sparse lyricism of an extraordinary beauty. Such is its purity, simplicity and subtlety that it’s almost impossible to imagine a lovelier meeting of Arabic and European musics.” In The Independent, Phil Johnson described “Le pas du chat noir” as “a complete delight: 70 minutes of intricately dappled, Debussy-like settings for a Maghreb chamber trio. And if the light is falling just right, it can make your listening room feel like a Matisse interior.”
Extensive touring on both sides of the Atlantic following the release of “Le pas du chat noir” permitted the trio to grow into a real ‘band’, with Brahem increasingly giving interpretative leeway to his associates. Both François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier are well-known improvisers with strong reputations in European jazz.
Pianist Couturier won France’s coveted Django Reinhardt Prize in 1980, an award that served to awaken international attention, and he subsequently toured the world as a member of guitarist John McLaughlin’s groups. Couturier first collaborated with Anouar Brahem in 1985 in a project also including Turkish musicians Barbaros Erköse and Kudsi Erguner and subsequently appeared on Brahem’s “Khomsa” album. In1997 he recorded the duo album “Poros” with violinist Dominique Pifarély, a frequent musical partner. Other musicians with whom he has worked include Robin Kenyatta, Eddy Louis, Jean-Marc Larché and Didier Levallet. In December 2005, Francois Couturier recorded as yet untitled album for ECM, with participating musicians including Jean-Louis Matinier, saxophonist Jean-Marc Larché and cellist Anja Lechner.
Jean-Louis Matinier made his ECM debut with Brahem on “Le pas du chat noir” but he has had working relationships with other muscians associated with the label, including Gianluigi Trovesi, Enrico Rava and Louis Sclavis, and is widely admired for the fluidity of his approach. Originally a classical player he has made the transition to jazz and other improvised forms seem natural and inevitable.
“Le Voyage de Sahar” features persuasive, emotionally powerful new compositions by Anouar Brahem, and also incorporates new approaches to three of his most requested pieces: “Vague”, “E la nave va” and “Halfaouine”.
Brahem, Couturier and Matinier take the music of “Le Voyage de Sahar” on the road in March with concerts in Portugal, France, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. The tour culminates in a special double concert with the Brahem trio plus Rolf Lislevand’s group in Munich on April 8.