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Anouar Brahem: Thimar

Traversing various ethnic musical traditions can be risky business, but Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem has found strong and workable paths to expressive synergy through improvisatory channels in his music. On his latest project for ECM, Thimar (Arabic for “fruits”), the masterful and subtle Brahem is joined by bassist Dave Holland and John Surman, on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, both bold British musicians with a flexible enough musical grasp to rise to the challenge and the lyricism of the situation.

Brahem has, among other things, written for film, and a certain cinematic quality can be detected in his writing, which manages to be reflective and vibrant, simultaneously. Most importantly, his compositions are pan-culture frameworks, with modes and meters adaptable to jazz and Arabic sensibilities, for improvisational stretching. Holland, especially, shines here, providing his sure, rolling foundation and improvisational dialogue, as well as the sweet-tempered major mode composition “Mazad.” Improvisation steps aside for the album’s closing cut, the short, prayer-like “Hulmu Rabia.” Just as varying cultural threads intertwine, the three musicians offer their own individual input towards a collective end.

Originally Published