Anouar Brahem Trio Astrakan Cafe (ECM)

Astrakan Café (ECM)

Record Reviews

Anouar Brahem Trio

Astrakan Cafe (ECM)

Having already recorded a handful of accomplished albums for ECM, Thimar and Conte de L'Incroyable Amour being two standouts, Tunisian Anouar Brahem's latest release, Astrakan Cafe, may be the finest document of his formidable composing, performing, and bandleading gifts to date. Except for internationally known flute player Kudsi Erguner, the lineup for Astrakan Cafe is the same as the arcadian L'Incroyable Amour. Joining Brahem's earthy and emotive oud (lute) are Lassad Hosni, who plays the bendir and darbouka hand drums, and Turkish clarinetist Barbaros Erköse. Like L'Incroyable Amour, the title track here is the album's crown jewel, a composition of deep, lasting melody. Brahem's cafe reference is not capricious, either; situated at the north end of the Caspian Sea, Astrakan is like Brahem's hometown of Tunis, a coastal city where cultures coalesce and people converse and trade ideas. Much like a cafe. The exchange here is between three musicians and their instruments (no samples, digitizing, or synths), who interpret Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Mediterranean classics, as well as Brahem's impressionistic compositions. In spite of nearly two LPs' worth of material, these 14 songs compose a cohesive, yet kaleidoscopic work that's equally well suited to morning country rides and late night incensed wine affairs. Erköse glows on opener "Aube Rouge a Grozny," Hosni propels the frenetic and stunning "The Mozdok's Train," and "Karakoum" shows Brahem again to be an oudist of the first order. Together, Brahem and company have created one of the year's best worldy instrumental albums. Again.

****

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