At the end of the 1990s, Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem led a landmark example of north African collaborations with contemporary jazz on the ECM album Thimar. In recent years, Brahem's work has been more refined and reflective than groove-inclined, but this vivacious quartet set marks a return to the chemistry of Thimar, and it's a richly varied and often thrilling piece of world-jazz.
Brahem's partners here are Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet, with electric bassist Bjorn Meyer, and a wonderful Lebanese percussionist, Khaled Yassine. Yassine plays with dancers as much as instrumentalists, and on this evidence he must be an inspirational impetus. Dreamily deep-toned pieces tantalisingly imply impending dances long before they arrive, the cumulative constructions of Brahem's improvisations sometimes suggest an oud-playing John McLaughlin, and the crispness and tonal range of Yassine's traditional drums against the contemporary edge of the bass guitar drives up the temperature in the rhythm-section. Stopover at Djibouti is a standout, with its long insinuating lines turning on funky hooks and then growing increasingly folksy.
John Fordham - Guardian UK
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