La Pas du Chat Noir

Who would have thought that the supremely subtle oud (the ancient Arabic lute) could be featured on a recording with piano, that most dominantly Western of instruments? Meticulously arranged and ideal

Who would have thought that the supremely subtle oud (the ancient Arabic lute) could be featured on a recording with piano, that most dominantly Western of instruments? Meticulously arranged and ideally, gorgeously recorded, La Pas du Chat Noir features Tunisian oud virtuoso/composer Anouar Brahem in a fresh setting conceived at the keyboard and then realized with pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier. The result is as redolent of the French minimalism of Satie and, even more so, his Catalan successor Mompou as it is of traditional Arabic music. There is a hushed, highly concentrated quality to this Pan-Mediterranean musical haiku, with the notes purified down to their absolute essence. The entire package—music, sound, cover design—is ECM at its best. As much as any of the label's "crossover" hits (such as Arvo Pärt and Officium by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble), this album brims with appeal for all who have an ear for the best in music.—BB