YouTube Picks (#20) – Another way to play Mandolin: Back to Bach

It really doesn’t matter whether you are into classic rock, jazz, blues, pop, bluegrass, whatever, eventually every serious musician or music patron has to come to terms with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is one of, if not the most significant  composer, in the history of western music. It really doesn’t matter what instrument you play because Bach didn’t really care to much about instrumental specifics. He frequently moved his music around from instrument to instrument or onto any one of the many configuration or ensembles at his disposal. Obviously, string and keyboard players have the edge with the shear volume of Bach’s music that is available for their instruments. Mandolin players are luckier than most. Although, to my knowledge Bach didn’t compose specific mandolin music, players have access to the huge quantity of Bach’s violin, cello, viola, etc music that is out there. They also have the advantage in that the tuning of the mandolin is the same as the violin (G D A E – low to high). Admittedly the Mandolin doesn’t have the ability to sustain long notes like a violin but there are ways around that (the tremolo).

Over the years mandolin players have not been slow to pick up on the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas. It is not only great music but it’s a great way to build up your mandolin technique.  Even Bluegrass players have taken a turn at those compositions.  One of note is an American mandolinist,  singer, songwriter, and radio personality named  Colin Thile  (born February 20, 1981). He is best known for his work in the progressive acoustic trio  Nickel Creek and the acoustic folk and progressive bluegrass quintet  Punch Brothers. He also has a passion for Bach. Check the video below of Colin playing Bach’s Sonata No.1 in G Minor, BWV 1001. This is a Suite of  four pieces:  Adagio / Fuga / Siciliano / Presto.

Although the Bluegrass mandolin, to my ears, sounds a little thin for this style of music this is a great performance and should inspire us all.

The first time I took a look at the manuscript for the Sonata it threw me for a loop. I am more used to reading simple melody lines or chord diagrams so on first glance it was, and still is, pretty daunting. Take a look at the first page ………

Mike Marshall and Darroll Anger are two other North American performers who have dipped more than a toe in Bach’s deep musical waters.

Mandolin players can go even further afield in the huge Bach inventory. For example here  the Israeli Madolinist Avi Avital and Harpist  Bridget Kibbey playing a rearrangement of the Eb Major Sonata for Flute and Clavier, BWV 1031. This is the first movement the Allegro Moderato. Avi is a well known, award winning performer and Bridget is a much in demand solo and ensemble performer.  The physical contrast between the tiny mandolin and the giant harp is eye catching and yet the sound balance between the instruments is spot on.

There are many, many more examples on YouTube so feel free to explore and, if you are a mandolin player, maybe work on a few pieces.

@@@@@@@@@@@

SWEET ALIBI – House Concert

SWEET ALIBI HOUSE CONCERT Wednesday November 15, 2017, 7:30pm at 5768 Haha Creek Road, Wardner.

With the possible exception of Classical Chamber Music, small group truly acoustic performances are pretty rare these days. Even “folk” musicians “plug in”. The expectation of audiences, regardless of the music genre  or the performance venue is for the music to be amplified. The Sweet Alibi  house concert at Van and Shelagh Redecop’s place on Wednesday night is about as close as one can get to an acoustic performance.

The opening act, Mismatched Socks,  was 100% acoustic. No one plugged in and none of the vocalists were “miked”. This local family band  of related siblings and cousins have been performing around the area for a couple of years now and features Grace Cleland on mandolin; Rachel Cleland  on upright bass; Jason Cleland  on violin;  cousins and fellow siblings Rachel and Meaghan Gaudet on percussion and guitar. All musicians double up on vocals. This was the perfect venue to hear the sweet harmonies of the vocalists against the soft musical back drop of the accompanying instruments. They did a short set that included Rip Tide, Muddy Waters, Phillip Phillips  Home,  and the Lumineers  Hey Ho.

        

On the other hand Sweet Alibi did “plug in” their guitars but the vocals were 100% acoustic and the balance between the instruments and the vocals was absolutely perfect. The vocal harmonies were to die for. Having performed in the area last April this is their second concert at Van and Shelagh’s place. The band of Amber Rose – guitar, vocals and percussion; Michelle Anderson – banjo, vocals and guitar; Jess Rae Ayre  – guitar, vocals, percussion and harmonica were joined by bass guitarist Alistair Dunlop (It is rumored that Alistair first met the ladies in a Winnipeg North prison). The band performed  selections from their numerous recordings and it included their wonderful version of Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody and their tribute to the undefeated rodeo bull  Bodacious.

Here are some more images from the evening.

            

Thanks should go to the musicians of Sweet Alibi who spend so much time on the road touring to entertain such small, but welcoming audiences. Thanks to the “Cleland Clan” for coming out on a school night to perform  and thanks also to Shelagh and Van for hosting the concert, housing the musicians and providing the wine and delicious snacks.

We should do this again some time……..

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

The Pandeiro

What is a Pandeiro? The short answer is “it is a Brazilian Tambourine”. Rather than talk about it here is a video that demonstrates the instrument in action.

This is the Trio Brasileiro  a Brazilian trio dedicated to the most Brazilian of all music forms, the Choro. On the left playing the Pandeiro is  Alexandre Lora, on 7 -string guitar is his brother Douglas Lora and the musician on Bandolin (5 course mandolin) is Dudu Maia. As you can see and hear the Pandeiro drives the music and as with all Brazilian music the Pandeiro is the heart beat of the music. One could go as far as to describe it at Brazil’s national instrument.

This a relatively simple tiny instrument that looks much the same as a standard tambourine but it is a little slimmer and is held and played in a different way.

Why my Interest? A local clarinet player is considering getting into playing Choro and there is a suggestion out there that there could be a demand for a Pandeiro player. Although I have a couple of Pandeiros in the basement I have never really got to grips with acquiring the technique. Now might be a good time to remedy that deficiency. So after a quick search of YouTube, where there are literally hundreds of videos, the following 8 videos seem to be the most useful. Scott Kettners approach is logical, graduated  and relatively uncomplicated. So the process begins.

1. Holding the Pandeiro

2.  Right Hand Technique

3. Left and Right Hand Techniques with Accents

4. Bass Tones

5.  Slap Tones

6. Putting it all  together

7. Tuning the Pandeiro

8. Another Approach – Muting

So, I suppose the obvious question is why clutter up a perfectly “good” blog with all of this. Well for me it is just a way to collect all the information in one place to aid the learning process. Possibly there are some other percussionists in the area who may also be interested in expanding their repertoires. If so, here it is all in one spot.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Stage 64 (Kimberley) Winter Jazz and Blues Concert Series – Melody Diachun

STAGE 64 WINTER JAZZ AND BLUES CONCERT SERIES  : Melody Diachun and her Quartet.  Saturday October 28, 2017, 8pm  

Black Orpheus (Portuguese: Orfeu Negro) is a 1959 film made in Brazil by French director  Marcel Camus and starring Marpessa Dawn and  Breno Mello. It is based on the play  Orfeu da Conceicao by Vinicius de Moraes, which is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice , set in the modern context of a  favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. The film was an international co-production among    companies in Brazil, France and Italy. The film is particularly noted for the musical soundtrack by two Brazilian composers:  Antonio Carlos Jobim , whose song “A Felicidade” opens the film; and  Luiz Bonfa, whose  Manha de Carnaval  and Samba de Orfeu  have become bossa nova classics. ….. Wikipedia.

In the early 1960’s that Brazillian film made its mark on me and the world of cinema and music. On it’s release it won an Oscar for the best foreign film of the year and the sound track introduced the world to the wonders of Brazilian music. I remember the film well. After all, I saw it on the big screen about seven times in the first year of it’s release, and over the years I wore out a VHS copy and I still have a DVD version on my shelf at home. For Jazz players the music was a revelation. Here was a form of music that used jazz harmonic language and improvisational techniques along with new sophisticated melodies and rhythms. The words may have been in Portuguese but the musical language was challenging, sensual and, in some ways, the antithesis of the Hard Bop jazz style of the day. Brazilian classical guitarist Laurindo Almeida and Californian saxophonist Bud Shank had explored and recorded Bossa Nova as early as 1953 but it was the album Jazz Samba by the jazz tenor sax player  Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd, along with the hit single  Desafinado,  that was the start of Bossa Nova as it is now generally understood. Stan Getz gained the benefit of Charlie Byrd’s 1961 serendipitous tour of Brazil. Byrd had fallen in love with the music while on tour there and when he returned to the USA he sought out Stan Getz, played him the discs he’d brought back from Brazil, and suggested they get together and record their own album in a Brazilian style. The rest is history. The  Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd collaborations were monumentally successful and Jazz musicians adopted the style with a vengeance. They were the first of many musicians to do so and to this day Bossa Nova still continues to hold a grip on the imagination of jazz musicians. It may have been a craze at the time but it is one I knew would last.

On, the other hand, around that same time “The Fab Four” (aka The Beatles) launched their own musical craziness on the pop world. At the time I didn’t think the music would survive the teeny-bopper hysteria that almost drowned it out. Another case of music so loud you can’t actually hear it.  I couldn’t see the hysteria or the music lasting. I guess I was wrong. The hysteria faded away and the music did survive the craziness and in this day and age their songs are standards that rate right up there with the tunes in the  “The American Song Book”.

That brings us to the Melody Diachun concert on Saturday night at Stage 64 in Kimberley. Her premise for the evening was to bring together the music of the Bossa Nova era (mostly the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim) and the music of the Beatles into a night of pulsing rhythms, beautiful melodies and great lyrics delivered with artful arrangements and solo improvisations by a group of stellar musicians from the Nelson area. The drummer Steven Parish and bass player Mark Spielman anchored the band for the rhythmic, melodic  and harmonic  adventures of Melody Diachun on vocals and shakers, Clinton Swanson  on tenor sax and flute  and Doug Stephenson  on nylon and steel string guitars. Most of the Bossa Nova material was from the pen of Antonio Carlos Jobim and included Quiet Nights (Corcovada), If You Never Come to Me, The Girl from Ipanema, Samba do Aviao, One Note Samba, Dindi,  and a nice mish/mash of  Insensitive with the Beatles tune Yesterdays. Most of the songs were sung in English with the occasional foray into Portuguese. Although not exactly a Bossa Nova song, but never-the-less appropriate for the evening, the group performed Horace Silver’s jazz classic  Song for my Father. Horace’s father came from the Cape Verde Islands that, coincidently, has a rich Portuguese based musical heritage similar to Brazil. Interspersed among Jobim’s songs there were the following Beatles songs Hard Days Night , Eleanor Rigby, Blackbird, Let It Be,  All you need is Love and John Lennon’s Imagine. The only song that was really outside the box was Cole Porter’s Night and Day and that was still a good fit for the evening. Melody’s vocals were in top form and the soloists were a joy to hear. Doug Stephenson’s nylon string and steel guitar work was a revelation as, in previous Kimberley concerts, he had been  masquerading as a bass player. Because he looks like he is having way too much fun to be legal I do worry about Doug. Clinton Swanson has performed in Kimberley a number of times and his full bodied tenor sax solos, as always, were spot on. Melody’s introductions to the songs were delightful and entertaining.

Here are some images from a magical evening of music.

      

   

The band and the audience would like to thank Keith, the organizing committee, the volunteers, Ray on sound and lights, the Burrito Grill, A B&B at 228 and the Stem Winder for the support that made this concert series possible. On a final note a comment from my buddy Bill St. Amand summing up the evening  …….

IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS”.

@@@@@@@@@@@@

YouTube Picks (#19) – Another way to play Mandolin (2) – The Mother Lode

If you have spent any time listening to Bluegrass music then you are more than familiar with the mandolin. After all, didn’t the mandolin virtuoso Bill Monroe virtually invent this traditional genre? As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, there are other ways to

YouTube picks (#16) – Another way to play Mandolin

play mandolin besides Bluegrass and a perusal of the Brazilian Choro Bandolin tradition is a profitable investment in time. Even a casual investigation of the Bluegrass and Choro  traditions will eventually lead one back to the mother lode of mandolin performances  – the European classical tradition. As I mentioned in the previous blog, in part,  the North American and Brazilian mandolins traditions  can be traced back to the mostly Neapolitan roots. In the seventeen hundreds there was nothing more Italian or Neapolitan than the city of Venice and the music of Vivaldi. Some of the most popular mandolin pieces in the classical repertoire are the Vivaldi concertos.   The attached performance is the Antonio Vivaldi – Concerto for 2 Mandolins and Orchestra (RV532) by Het CONSORT  (a well known Dutch Mandolin Chamber Orchestra).

Mandolin Picks

Reesha Oud Picks

From the north American perspective the interesting things about the mandolins in this video are that the instruments are round back and very small. The other thing of note is the style of pick used. New World (USA and Brazil) mandolin players tend to use short, thick stiff plectrums. The performers in the Vivaldi orchestra all use thin quill like plectrums almost identical to the reesha, a pick used by Middle Eastern musicians to play the Oud. I don’t know what advantages that would offer. Maybe it is just a question of quality of sound. North American mandolin players favor a very percussion string attack and that maybe generates a sound out of favor in the classical tradition.

 

 

Below is another Vivaldi performance this time by the Israeli musician Avi Avital who is the first mandolin player to receive a GRAMMY nomination in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist” (2010) for his recording of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto (Metropolis Ensemble / Andrew Cyr). He has won numerous competitions and awards including Germany’s ECHO Prize for his 2008 recording with the David Orlowsky Trio and the AVIV Competition (2007), the preeminent national competition for Israeli soloists. He plays an unusual looking instrument built by the Israeli Luthier Avi Kerman. The instrument  has been described as a double topped instrument with a convex back. It is in essence two mandolins – one inside the other.

The compositions are so similar one wonders if the solo concerto is just a re-orchestration of the duo.

For mandolin music this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many more Mandolin videos on YouTube. There are lots of performances to explore…..  viva YouTube

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Moulettes at Centre 64 in Kimberley

On the poster Moulettes describe themselves as a British Touring Electric Art Rock Band. That is quite a mouthful. When I checked out their YouTube video clips I ended up with some sense that the band may be an up dated version of the classic British Folk Rock Band Steel Eyed Span. Now, having seen and heard them perform I don’t think I could have been more wrong. There is almost no element of “folk” in their performance but the concept of “Art Rock” is probably the right descriptor. This is no “lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums” rock and roll outfit. This is a completely original band with a configuration and a performance that is so completely out of the box that it is outside any of my frames of reference. I am speechless. I overheard a member of the audience suggesting that the performance reminded him of Frank Zappa’s music. Although I am vaguely familiar with Zappa’s music I really can’t authenticate that observation. But he could be right and that may be as good a hook as any on which to hang Tuesday’s night performance. Here is some information from their web site:

What is Moulettes?

  • moulette /ˈmu.lət/ noun
  • 1. (physics) a unit of force exerted by group of small objects/persons- energy exerted results in force disproportionate to their size.
  • 2. (botany, biology) a seed, cell or embryonic vessel containing a hatchling.
  • 3. a type of barnacle or sea mollusk, known for their resilience and traction. Free-swimming as larvae; as adults form a hard shell and live attached to submerged surfaces such as reefs, hulls and wharves.
  • 4. a small morsel of food believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • 5. a short story or song, both factual and fantastical in its themes; a refrain, spell, sound sequence or chorus.

They are not ‘The moulettes’, their songs are ‘Moulettes’. Welcome to the multi-verse of Moulettes.

  • Band Members:Hannah Miller – 5 String Cello, Cellola, Vocals, Guitar, Synths, and Autoharp.
  • Raevennan Husbandes – Electric Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic guitars & Dobro.
  • Ollie Austin – Drums, Guitar, Synth, Vocals.
  • Jim Mortimore – Bass, Double Bass, Moog, Vocals

 Here are some more images from the concert.

                

This was a night of very original music from a band that obviously put a lot of work into their arrangements and performance. I only have one small negative comment. The volume of the sound re-enforcement was too loud  for me to really hear all the nuances of the music.

The band would like to thank Keith and the committee for arranging the concert and they would also like to thank the volunteers and the sponsors, Burrito Grill for the food and Trickle Creek Lodge for the accommodation.

An Art Rock Band deserves an “arty” finale to this blog entry – and here it is – a technicolour abstract photo of Jim Mortimore in full flight on electric bass.

@@@@@@@@@@@@

Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip dies.

Tragically hip header 2_edited-1

Of course we all knew it was coming but it still seems so sudden. It’s 12 months since that last nation wide televised concert. There have been a lot of tributes on the news last night (Wednesday, 2017/10/18) including a very tearful farewell from the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Perhaps among the tributes this one below will rank high on the list.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

AUTUMN TONES

AUTUMN TONES is a chamber music ensemble of local musicians with Nicola Everton on clarinet, Sue Gold on piano and Martine denBok on violin and viola. All three musicians are associated with the Symphony of the Kootenays as either members of the orchestra or as visiting soloists. Nicola and Sue have performed many times in the area, along with cellist Jeff Faragher, in the classical chamber music ensemble THE SELKIRK TRIO. In both the Selkirk Trio and Autumn Tones the intent seems to be to explore the modern edge of classical music as well as excursions into the realms of the traditional classical repertoire, Jazz, Latin, Klezmer or anything else that strikes their fancy. On this beautiful fall afternoon in the lobby of the Key City Theatre that is the musical realms they set out to explore.

They kicked off the afternoon with Darius Milhaud’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. For me it was a moment of unbelievable synchronicity. On the drive to the theater I had been listening to some Brazilian Choro on the car CD player (yes, some of us still listen to CDs). On this beautiful fall afternoon what could be more appropriate than bouncing down the highway to the warm rhythms of Brazilian Choro. From the opening bars of the Milhaud piece the choro music I had just been listening to immediately came to mind and I began mentally adding in the percussive sounds of the Brazilian Pandeiro to the trio on stage.The Pandeiro is a Brazilian tambourine that is the heart beat of  samba. That mental notion is completely understandable when you consider Darius Milhaud’s musical associations with Jazz and Brazilian music.  He was one of the most prolific modern classical composers of the last century and was influenced by the sounds of Jazz and Brazilian music. While it is not his only claim to fame he was a musical mentor to the Jazz musician Dave Brubeck. So much so that Brubeck named his son Darius after the composer. One of Milhaud’s former students was the popular songwriter  Burt Baccharach. Milhaud is reported to have told Bacharach, “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.”.  This Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano lived up to that standard with lots of melody, rhythm and musical interplay between the instruments.

Popularity in music usually means world tours and mega arena performances. Modern classical composers do not rate that sort of popularity or attention and yet, in the realm of classical music, Arvo Part is probably the most popular modern classical composer of the last few years. This Estonian composer of classical and religious music uses self invented compositional techniques in the minimalist style (think Phillip Glass with darker Eastern European overtones). For this afternoon’s performance the trio selected Part’s popular Spiegel im Spiegel written in 1978. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German literally can mean both “mirror in the mirror” as well as “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror which produces an infinity of images reflected by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads in the composition are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin. Other versions exist with cello or viola, double bass, clarinet, trombone, flute etc.  This performance is for piano, clarinet and violin and is in F major in 6/4 time.

Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903 – 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor and is best known for his composition  the Sabre Dance. He was the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century and is considered one of Soviet Russia’s  leading composer. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern & Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works.  His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”. The trio performed movements 1 and 3 from his Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.

In the vernacular the clarinet has been referred to as a liquorice stick. Maybe it is the colour of the instrument but I like to think it is because of the liquid smoothness of the music of Mozart when played on the clarinet. Autumn Tones pulled us away from the “edginess” of contemporary classical music into the smooth mainstream of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K498 in E flat Major for piano, clarinet and viola. No composer before Mozart had written for this combination of instruments. The origin of the nickname Kegelstatt is interesting. The German word Kegelstatt means “a place where skittles are played,” akin to a bowling alley. Mozart is reputed to have written this while playing skittles. At the time the clarinet was a relatively new instrument and in the first performance the then vituoso Anton Stadler played clarinet, Mozart the viola, and Franziska von Jacquin the piano. This trio composition, along with his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet concerto helped increase the instrument’s popularity. The piece is in three movements: Andante /  Menuetto /  Rondeaux: Allegretto

 

For the final piece the trio took us back to the edge for a little slice of Yiddish Klezmer in the tune Moldavanke. This style of music is mostly associated with Eastern European Jewish traditions and is performed in a lively bouncing style with overtones of Jewish humor and melancholy. Nicola has fallen in love with the style and wants to put together a Klezmer band.

  

Autumn Tones would like to thank The Kootenay Cultural Alliance and sponsors that have made this tour possible.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

A BONUS: By it’s very nature music is of the moment. As soon as the musical note leaps into the air it is in the process of dying and until the invention of sound recordings that was it. All we had left were memories.  The recording industry has changed all that and performances can become more permanent if they are recorded. Unfortunately not all performances make it “onto wax”. This concert by Autumn Tones is now but a pleasant memory. Perhaps some day Autumn Tones and The Selkirk Trio can be persuaded to record those musical gems that over recent years they have cast to the winds. To make up for that here is a bonus for you from YouTube –

Darius Milhaud: Suite op.157b for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – Cologne Chamber Soloists

ENJOY

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

YouTube Pick (#17) – Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem performing ASTRAKAN CAFE

Jazz record labels tend to have a specific persona and ethos that is consistent during their successful years. Verve Records was the brain child of jazz impresario Norman Granz and the recordings the company released in the early years bore his imprimatur. Similarly, the ethos of BlueNote records reflects the founder Alfred Lyons’ view of the jazz soundscape and, along with the masterful sound engineering of Rudy Van Gelder, created the BlueNote sound. On the other side of the Atlantic in Munich, Germany  Manfred Eicher founded the ECM label (Edition of Contemporary Music) that, like Verve and BlueNote, created a specific persona and sound. In this case it was unmistakably a creation of the founder Manfred Eischer. The ECM catalogue is filled with unique and interesting musicians and music. The label marketed, and continues to market, an incredible collection of some of the most significant jazz musicians of the day including Keith Jarret, Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, etc.   Although,mostly a jazz recording label, it has explored many alternative approaches to music. Most notably in the recordings of Jan Gabarek, L. Shankar,  Steve Tibbetts and, of course the music of the Tunisian Oud player Anouar Brahem. My first encounter with this musician was the ECM recording Astrakan Cafe that, along with the Oud playing of Anauor, also featured the percussion of Lassad Hosni (bendir and darbuka) and the clarinet of Turkish musician Barbaros Erkose. First of all, Anauor Brahem plays the Arab Oud, an instrument that is the ancestor of all guitar like instruments. His approach is a little different from the classic Arab musician in that as well as the folkloric repertoire he explores a number of eclectic musical offerings within a number of unique musical configurations. As mentioned in Wikipedia his playing style is often compared to  the Lebanese musician Rabih Abou-Khalil who is well known for fusing traditional  Arab music with Jazz, European Classical music  and other styles. Anouar’s compositions are considered to be more mellow and spare and this he achieves by utilizing ensembles of three or four musicians and unusual combination of instruments. A quick glance at his ECM discography gives you some idea of his musical approach.

  • Barzakh ECM 1432 (1991) with fellow Tunisian musicians Bechir Selmi on violin and Lassad Hosni on percussion.
  • Conte de L’Incroyable ECM 1457 (1992) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet, Kudsi Erguner (Turkish) on the Ney Flute and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion.
  • The Silences of the Palaces (1994) Film music for the Tunisian movie of the same name.
  • Khomsa ECM 1561 (1995) with Richard Galliano  (French) on accordion; Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and synthesizer; Jean Marc Larche (?) on soprano sax; Bechir Selmi (Tunisian) on violin; Palle Danielsson  (Swedish jazz musician) on double bass; Jon Christensen (Norwegian jazz musician) on drums. The album was recorded in Oslo. Norway 
  • Thimar ECM 1641 (1998) with John Surman (British jazz musician) on soprano sax and bass clarinet; Dave Holland (British jazz musician) on double bass. Also recorded in Oslo, Norway
  • Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion. Recorded in a monastery in Austria.
  • Le Pas du Chat Noir ECM 1792 (2002) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) on accordion recorded in Zurich.
  • Le Voyage de Sahar ECM 1915 (2006) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) recorded in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • The Astounding Eyes of Rita ECM 2075 (2009) with Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet; Björn Meyer: bass; Khaled Yassine: darbouka, bendir. Recorded in Udine, Italy.
  • Souvenance  ECM 2423/24 – 2 CDs (2014) with Francois Couturier on piano; Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano sax; Björn Meyer (Swedish) on double bass; and Orchestra della Svizzera italiana / Pietro Mianiti: conductor. Recorded in Lugano, Switzerland

I have been, and still are, completely captivated by ethereal sound of the Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) recording and the title track is one of my all time favorite pieces of music. So much so that I got my hands on a Godin MultiOud. This is an instrument manufactured in Quebec and for want of a better description it is a recent attempt to emulate the traditional Oud for a guitar friendly clientele. It is a fret less nylon strung instrument with a single bass string and the remaining 10 strings as 5 courses of unison strings. The strings  can be tuned in a number of traditional systems (Turkish, Turkish/Armenian, Arabic, Syrian or Egyptian). Godin, the manufacturer of the instrument, suggests using the Syrian  system – F A D G C F (low string to high). I believe this is the system Anouar Brahem uses. Because I play a number of other similar instruments I have chose to use a modified Syrian system – D A D G F C). Like the traditional Oud the MultiOud is played with a unique plectrum called a mezraab/mizrap in Farsi and Turkish and Reesha in Arabic. While purists are probably not convinced that the MultiOud is a valid vehicle for authentic Oud music it is, to my ear, pretty convincing. It has a number of advantages over the traditional Oud. The friction tuning pegs have been replaced with the more conventional guitar tuners. The flat backed body is more comfortable for a performer. The cut away body makes it easier to reach higher positions on the neck. The built in Fishman Tuner and pickup has a number of variable parameters to  allow the performer to sculpt a preferable sound. For guitarists one of the major hurdles to playing the Oud or the MultiOud is getting used to the fret less fingerboard. I am still struggling with the MultiOud but my ambition is to one day play a credible version of the Astrakan Cafe.  Check the above link to see and hear the tune in all its glory and revel in the incredible sound and ambience of the music and marvel at Anouar’s snappy syncopation and improvisations.

Below are a couple more links of Anouar in small ensemble environments.

Of the three, the last one Stopover at Djibouti, is my favorite.  I particularly like Björn Meyer tapping five string bass part  and Khaled Yassine adroit combination of of the Turkish darbouka and the bendir (frame drum). I believe the bass clarinet is played by Klaus Gesing. When you stop and think about it. It is an unusual combination of “instruments in the basement”, bass clarinet, electric bass and Oud all way down there with the darbouka and bendir flitting around to provide sonic relief and rhythmic integration. All in all it is very interesting stuff.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@