Astrakan Café

There can be few more poetically productive Middle Eastern musicians than Tunisian composer and oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem.

There can be few more poetically productive Middle Eastern musicians than Tunisian composer and oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem. His ECM discography boasts improvisational collaborations with Western jazz stars—namely, Thimar (John Surman, Dave Holland) and Madar (Jan Gabarek)—and wonder-filled outings with such regional compatriots as Turkish clarinetist Barbaros Erköse (as on the standout Conte de l'Incroyable Amour, from 1992). With Astrakan Café, Brahem's sixth album, he teams with the fluid Erköse again, plus frequent percussion partner Lassad Hosni. The trio explores classic Arabic material and new Brahem melodies, as well as atmospheric pieces the lutenist has written for various theatrical projects. Characteristically, a love of tradition and a bold feel for expanding that heritage come together here, with Brahem and company weaving age-old imagery and individual emotion into a mosaic of spellbinding beauty.—BB

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