CD Reviews

A Trio – Music to our ears

March 6, 2012

Back to work today, which went better than expected, an then home this evening with enough time to listen to a couple of CDs again, in the end rejecting one of them for a review because I just couldn’t think of a single positive thing to say, and deciding then to write about the other one, which is one of a couple of new releases on Mazen Kerbaj’s Al Maslakh label from Lebanon. The disc is credited to “A”Trio who are Kerbaj himself (trumpet) alongside Sharif Sehnaoui (acoustic guitar) and Reed Yassin (double bass) and is named Music to our ears. 
Textural Swing and The Shape of Jazz that Came I will admit to feeling slightly unsure if I would like this disc or not, as the jazzier end of improv isn’t really my thing, but fear not, while the pieces here all quite busily active, and there is a trace of rhythm to be heard in two or three of them, the shadow of jazz is cast upon the tracks quite thinly. The disc opens with what is by far the longest piece, the thirty-three minute Textural Swing that indeed opens with a set of sounds that could easily be mistaken for electronics, and slowly slides into a dense mass of generally textural rubbing and buzzing that you would be hard pushed to pin down as belonging to any of the instruments being used. The track shifts and moves through various stages that all involve layers of detailed textures until ten minutes or so in, when just some kind of metal on wood (the guitar?) vibration is all that remains, and this eventually gives out, forcing the music to rebuild from silence though little metallic pinging to bowed sounds and a more spacious feel before it all becomes dense again. This is a great track, a deserving centrepiece for the album and really not very much like anything else I’ve heard recently.

The other three pieces are all much shorter, with Three Portraits of No Color existing of an unevenly consistent metallic chiming, created (I think) by Sehnaoui striking the strings of the guitar with something metal, strange grinding sounds from Yassin’s bass and some chirruping, splattery trumpet work that sounds far more like the instrument than anything in the first monumental track did. If the piece revolves around Sehnaoui’s almost ritualistic rhythm then the third track follows suit with a more melodic chiming met by a brooding trumpet buzz and some deep, booming bass rubbing, but again the piece has a pulse, albeit often a little awkwardly out of tempo with itself. This track, The Shape of Jazz that Came actually gets a bit angry as it moves on, sounds spat out in places and the bass almost cut in half such is the weight of the booming strikes. The closing Tomorrow, I’ll make breakfast is a lighter affair altogether, with little silence and a lot going on all of the time again, but here the sounds are mostly breathy and/or bowed, hushed whispering and whistling meeting the familiar sound of bowed metal, though with these three instruments involved, which metal exactly was being bowed is beyond me.

There can’t be that many improvising musicians of this type in the Lebanon, so it is inevitable I guess that these three musicians play together often, and certainly the music here feels like it is played by a trio that know each other well and are able to push and pull at each other’s sensibilities easily. Music to our ears (dreadful name for an album by the way!) feels tense and alive, like a a pile of dry leaves with a stray wild animal inside, wrestling to get out and making a mess along the way. Its a fine piece of free improvisation by some skilled and thoughtful musicians that deserve wider attention than they are likely to get in their home country. Available to buy from here.

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