Anouar Brahem

Le Pas du Chat Noir

(ECM 1792)

Anouar Brahem, oud; Francois Couturier, pianist; Jean-Louis Matinier, accordion.

Le Pas du Chat Noir is what might be termed a "concept album, to the extent that its 12 themes, all Brahem originals, convey a precise emotional range. Calm, introspection, and reflection are concepts that aren't always associated with today's ultra-competitive Jazz scene. A few minutes into the session, it becomes apparent that modal frameworks, unison lines, rhythmic cycles, and out-of-tempo cadenzas are central to Brahem's art.

However, a question arises as to whether a creative deviation from these parameters, if they can be called that, might have better served the musical content. Couturier, undoubtedly a highly trained classical pianist, is a bit too literal in his accompaniment of Brahem, who is a strong, pulse-oriented soloist. Matinier in fact underscores the rhythmic cycle in "Pique-nique a Nagpur." If the piano is a powerful, orchestral instrument, then why not exploit its chromatic and percussive resources?

Listeners will need to decide for themselves whether an element of contrast is lacking in this otherwise successful program.

by James D. Armstrong, Jr.

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