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There’s a short interlude in the middle with just piano and oud harmonising the melody, and it’s the keyboard that offers romanticism. Mr Bates circling and rippling through and across Brahem’s picked variant melody, pinging and holding the notes; Holland and De Johnette adding eggshell cracks into the mix. The title track has the oud picking a maqam against a wisp of De Johnette. The oud continues and then the super drummer is back, not being ‘super drummer’, just hitting it damn right.This oud is splitting hairs, coming on New York, touching a tougher place. (I wonder if anyone has ever told Jack De Johnette how good he is at grace-glancing off cymbals? When I first heard Anouar Brahem all those years ago spilling beans into Ustad Shaukat Hussain’s tablas - . But you know, twenty years on, to hear this laid back pull-off PLUCK pick into the Jack De Johnette swish and pulse, it makes me feel like asking what took them so long? Another fine thing about this new session is that Brahem quotes from his past without carrying on living there.He’s positioned himself inside a ‘J-word’ quartet, albeit one that is working outside boundaries.And to complete this act of transformation he has added the piano of Django Bates.It’s a ‘chess’ move that might have people slowly shaking their heads in disbelief. Django Bates brings to this session, a considered lyrical certainty that opens up the music to all kinds of interpretations.
There’s a harder pluck/more ‘guitar’ gut (it isn’t, but I’m talking impressions).You can tell Bates is lucid and on the right ‘road’ because when Anouar Brahem’s oud eventually picks up the theme from him it is as if the pianist has already understood the pathos of the melody.Django Bates has done the work, leaving the oud to grasp a visceral improvised soundscape from this setting.Old men look back; wise men see their past and then walk forward. The oud alone, a desert whispering voice, and then Bates, Holland and De Johnette enter like the evening tide - the swell, then the wave that sweeps all before them.There’s a classic Dave Holland solo circulating drum beats – for a few minutes it could be any one of those diamond quartets he has led over the last forty years. And underneath Mr Bates is fabulously inspiring; doing what really ace jazz pianists do – setting up the ensemble while at the same time playing their own gobsmacking variant that makes you want to keep pressing the repeat button.
We get buzzing drones, quick licks, plucked long deep lute lines of storytelling angling into the bottom of the unfretted neck.