Anouar Brahem and Charles Lloyd

Le Voyage de Sahar, and Sangam (ECM)

Phases and Stages

Anouar Brahem

Le Voyage de Sahar (ECM)

Charles Lloyd

Sangam (ECM)

ECM has no use for ethnic categories, national boundaries, et cetera. Contrasting the new millennium's prevailing political winds, different social elements can not only live together, they can thrive together. Spain's Al-Åndalus era from 1,000 years ago is a perfect example. Different faiths lived together; culture, education, and art flourished. It's a fitting reference for Tunisian composer and oud player Anouar Brahem's seventh album and second with this trio, which includes pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier. The trio melds Brahem's haunting oud virtuosity with impressionistic splashes of French cafe society, as in "Sur le Fleuve" and the title track. Melodic, graceful, and moving, Le Voyage de Sahar will linger in your mind's eye and ear like David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. No less poignantly grand is jazz multi-instrumentalist Charles Lloyd's latest trio effort, Sangam, here with master tabla player Zakir Hussain and Houston native/jazz percussionist and pianist Eric Harland. Imagine Ravi Shankar's tabla player improvising with John Coltrane and Jack DeJohnette, and you'll grasp the phenomenal combination here. "Dancing on One Foot," and "Guman" are merely summits of the mountain range. More special, this translucent album is from a wholly improvised tribute concert for the late, great timekeeper and Lloyd teammate Billy Higgins. Sangam can be translated as "academy" or "river confluence," both apt; three freely composed harmonic and rhythmic streams form a master class of how to let the spirit flow. ECM proves yet again that arbitrary demarcations like race and musical style aren't only to be ignored, but erased.

(Both) ****

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