Al Maslakh
 
al maslakh (the slaughterhouse) is a ufo created to publish the unpublishable in the lebanese artistic scene
 



MSLKH 14
MUSIC TO OUR EARS

"A" TRIO

Mazen Kerbaj – trumpet
Sharif Sehnaoui – acoustic guitar
Raed Yassin – double bass


01 Textural Swing (33.15)
02 Three Portraits in No Color (08.01)
03 The Shape of Jazz That Came (07.34)
04 Tomorrow, I’ll Make Breakfast (06.12)


all music improvised by kerbaj/sehnaoui/yassin
recorded, mixed and mastered by fadi tabbal at tunefork studio on the 29th and 30th of september 2010

artwork & design by mazen kerbaj (artwork drawn on a photo by tony elieh) –

produced in lebanon by al maslakh



REVIEWS


The record’s title seems to give an unsolicited answer to a hypothetical question by some kind of illiterate listener: “how do you call this stuff?”. Your reviewer gave up speaking music in depth since decades ago, utterly depressed by the mixture of ignorance and presumptuousness that a typical schmoozer offers to the counterpart. As I like to say, this is the topic about which no one knows shit yet everybody gives public speeches. The ability of enjoying sounds as they are – “good”, “bad”, “sweet”, “harsh” or whatever adjective you might wish to use – is THE foundation, not only of the mere act of listening but of living itself. It is something that teaches to respect the persons who talk without interrupting, trying to overwhelm them with our own argumentations. It is a means to get stronger in front of the adversities. Learn to really detect the various components of a piece, and the organization of life facts appear clearer in the mind (provided that the latter is not altered by certain substances). In this recording, Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet), Sharif Sehnaoui (guitar) and Raed Yassin (double bass) produce a great number of hard-to-describe sonorities that basically verge on the nasty side of things and, for the most part, are uneasily abrasive and downright stinging. They use drones, scraped surfaces, percussive gestures and motorized appliances to elicit meaningfully unseductive resonances. Sometimes they alter the timbre of the respective instruments in such a radical fashion that one just does not believe that there’s not a saxophone, or a distortion pedal in this set. But everything I heard is rational, enlivening, aggressive in a constructive way – and it IS (excellent) music to these ears, not likely to resemble anything emitted by other practitioners of the art of acoustic excoriation.
Touching Extremes | Massimo Ricci

Mazen Kerbaj has a history of baffling listeners with his trompe-l'oreille extended/distended trumpet techniques. In this trio setting, with Sharif Sehnaoui (acoustic guitar) and Raed Yassin (double bass), you can barely tell what the hell's going on, except that it's staunchly textural and utterly engrossing. Rejecting any electronic accoutrements (which is explicitly stated on the cover), the disc opens with a thick, brazen rumble, relentlessly enveloping the listener in a quaking, evolving drone for almost nine minutes. As the remainder of the 33-minute opener, "Textural Swing," navigates numerous other regions ―buzzingly luminous, tentatively rattling, thinly quivering ― one constantly remains mesmerized by the incredibly rich yet stubborn fields of sound. The listener becomes so disoriented and bewildered that when an identifiable instrumental sound finally surfaces, with a double bass drone 20 minutes in, it feels completely abstract. It's not long though before the drone becomes caked with noise and you're left without a compass all over again. The three shorter improvisations that follow are equally strange, beautiful and perplexing, both in terms of their particular terrain and logic. It's a rare treat to hear musicians creating such startlingly unique and perfectly constructed, and integrated, work via pure improvisation.
exclaim.ca | Nick Storring

Could this be the sound of war? Beirut based trumpet player Mazen Kerbaj was born in 1975, the year that saw the beginning of Lebanon’s quarter century of savage internecine struggles – and the rumble of conflict permeates this release. Al Maslakh, the label he founded with guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui in 2005, translates as The Slaughterhouse and has a bloody cleaver for a logo, while Kerbaj’s cubist-inspired cartoon sleeve illustrations look like Guernica with guitars. The acoustic improvised drones they make, together with bassist Raed Yassin, range from insistent, chiming resonances with emergency alarm bells to low thrumming hums – evoking helicopter gunships hovering overhead, or bulldozers demolishing bomb-blasted apartments. All three musicians largely avoid conventional technique, instead using what sounds like motorised devices to generate rattling, metallic vibrations, building a mechanistic backdrop out of which the instruments’ true voices occasionally – and very briefly – arise like anguished cries for help. It’s rare to hear improvisation making such a powerful comment on the dehumanising effects of industrialised violence.
The Wire | Daniel Spicer

If you look up moving companies in the Yellow pages, you’ll see a bunch of companies who put “A” in front of their name (as in A-Alert Moving), presumably in the hope that you’ll call the first listing you find in the book. I kind of doubt that the “A” Trio had this stratagem in mind when they picked their name, since there just aren’t that many improvising trios in their home town of Beirut, Lebanon. Perhaps they’re declaring that they’re the A list? I suppose they are, and not just by default.
Trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, bassist Raed Yassin and guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui have developed a cohesive improvisational style founded upon a peculiar blend of isolation and connectedness. No one who comes from one of the centers of improvisational activity (Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Chicago, New York, Tokyo) is likely to give their record a name so defensive as Music to our Ears; they would have had the chance to play to audiences who long since got past the question of whether a guy generating digeridoo drones and metallic clatter with his partially disassembled trumpet and some tubes is playing music. The members of “A” Trio, on the other hand, are building their scene in a place with no history of avant-garde music.
But they’re hardly naïfs. All three musicians are quite aware of improvisational practice around the world, having performed extensively in the U.S. and the E.U.; both Yassin and Sehnaoui have spent years living in Europe. And since they have a little scene at home to fall back upon, each year since 2000 Sehnaoui and Kerbaj have held a festival named Iritijal that serves both to declare their continued existence and to bring fresh non-Lebanese players to Beirut.
But the rest of the year, they play with each other, which explains the coherenceMusic to our Ears displays even when it sounds like each man is elaborating on ideas independent of what the others are doing. Their common ground includes a tendency to deal more with texture than melody and rhythm, and each man can make his acoustic, unamplified instrument sound electronic. “Textural Swing,” the record’s first and longest track at 33.15, sounds like a series of field recordings. It starts out in the engine room, shifts to a swamp, takes in a windblown junkyard, and ends up on a conveyor belt rolling deep into a mine without ever losing the thread, let alone giving away the fact that it’s made by three guys playing trumpet, double bass and guitar. There’s nothing at all swinging about it, but they aren’t completely averse to sustained rhythm or identifiable forms. “The Shape Of Jazz That Came” opens with a vibrant cascade of struck strings that come close to the jubilant pulse of Arnold Dreyblatt’s Orchestra Of Excited Strings, although it doesn’t stay there long. And Sehnaoui manages to work some bluesy string bending into “Tomorrow, I’ll Make Breakfast.” The music is generally quite busy, but it never feels like pointless chatter. Rather, it’s purposeful to the point of urgency.
Dusted Magazine | Bill Meyer

“A” Trio is Mazen Kerbaj (Trumpet) and Sharif Sehnaoui (acoustic guitar) and Reed Yassin (double bass).  Music to our ears is a tidy little disc just released on Mazen Kerbaj’s label from Lebanon Called Al Maslakh (The Slaughtehouse).
Track one is a giant of a tack, a relentless tale of meandering imaginings that insists on its own transformation several times throughout the piece. The music (all four tracks here) are not electronic, rather acoustic, implying a kind of ‘get back’ to the instrument itself feel – while at the same time moving beyond anything that sounds even remotely like the instrument.  It’s thirty-three minutes long and at that by far the longest piece on the disc.  The other three pieces are just as beautiful is shorter and speak to a potent symbiosis that tells us these musicians play together regularly but are not afraid to push each others boundaries and buttons regularly.
The thing that struck me in my listening experiences of this disc is the relationships between player and instrument. I found myself visualising and trying hard to make out each player and their extension – where usually I try to lose myself in the piece and not “overthink”. With each of these talented musicians the calculable is pushed as far as it can go in the direction of the incalculable. There is an eventual impact of the multiplicity of the surrounding conditions that recursion can assimilate and a powerful processing that calculation and thinking through the instruments can reach. For this album these states are reached through a kind of mania – a frenzied pace that mirrors itself and its surrounding sounds. It will then pause and reflect again and then dramatically move into another direction / potentially transformational relation to the world, as within itself the music examines itself, the instruments and its playing peers. Through this unmarked apostophic turn, they accomplish many tasks. The very understanding of each musicians alterity is fused with the recognition of the instruments “previous” or “earlier” self. (Tack 3 is called “The shape of Jazz that came”) The reactions of each musician with the other, while fused with recognition, eliminates any possible substitution.  This means the very music is as much itself as its own musical surrogate, bringing the listeners awareness of an immersion into sound within a self-evolving listening narrative into a new and advanced level.
This is a beautiful disc. The true potency of it lies in the collaboration between the artists and between the artists and their instruments.  That is where this power lies.
Lisa Thatcher

Présentations faites hier de l’ ‘‘A’’ Trio, entrons dans le vif de l’improvisation consignée enMusic to Our Ears. Le titre, d’ailleurs, pourrait être un credo qui relativiserait l’importance de tout étiquetage d’une réunion de sons naturellement attrapés au vol. 
Ainsi donc Mazen Kerbaj (trompette), Sharif Sehnaoui (guitare) et Raed Yassin(contrebasse), composent-ils sur l’instant selon les usages du jour – faisant grand cas du silence, ne s’interdisent pas le plaisir des rafales expressionnistes – en se référant au passé (The Shape of Jazz That Came) ou en pariant sur le futur (Tomorrow, I’ll Make Breakfast). La forme actualise les recettes d’AMM en comptant sur l’érosion des discours et adresse quelques clins d’œil au free jazz des origines (ainsi Kerbaj peut invectiver quand Sehnaoui martèle manche et cordes). 
Intense bien que tremblant, cet instant disparaîtra à l’orée d’un second, que se disputent déjà l’attente et la réflexion. Le troisième saura se souvenir et associera râles, parasites et harmoniques. Au bottleneck enfin, Sehnaoui taille dans les reliefs plus tôt élevés de Music to Our Ears pour peaufiner un ouvrage de beautés fragiles.
Le Son du Grisli | Guillaume Belhomme

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. 
Now there are four tracks here, all recorded, we are told, without any cuts, overdubbing, or use of electronics. Given that the music then is all acoustic and that two of the tracks are named 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. 
The Watchful Ear | Richard Pinnell

Abstracting and reconstituting timbres and textures from acoustic instruments to produce unique performances are the raisons d’etre of these challenging CDs. Recorded in two cities not known as epicenters of improvisation – Beirut and Lisbon – Music to Our Ears and Turbina Anthem prove that at least some Portuguese and Lebanese sound explorers are investigating the same forms as players elsewhere and with equally provocative results.
Not that either group works in isolation. Members of the “A” Trio have gigged internationally, with one, bassist Raed Yassin now an Amsterdam resident, and another, guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui, as often in France as his home country. Also a visual and video artist, Yassin, who has worked with American percussionist Michael Zerang and German trumpeter Axel Dörner, here prepares his bass with Tibetan bowls and other implements. Sehnaoui has also played with those two along with British saxophonist Tom Chant. An acclaimed cartoonist and diarist, Mazen Kerbaj, the third “A”, has used his distorted and re-shaped trumpet to improvise with the likes of French saxophonist Stéphane Rives and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger.
[…]
Sehnaoui on the other hand sees his acoustic guitar as an undifferentiated sound source, more often than not using mallets to smack the strings with the instrument held in a horizontal position.
[…]
Guitar and pocket trumpet undeniably maintain their expected identities on the Lisbon-recorded session, whereas in Beirut the undifferentiated sounds which predominate, end up being close cousins to synthesized granulation without involving electronics. Equipped with Jazz-classic satirizing titles such as “Three Portraits in No Color” and “The Shape of Jazz That Came” the shorter tracks manage to further obscure the situation with auxiliary sound colors. Sehnaoui’s knife-edge bottleneck runs and taut strums are omnipresent, while Yassin’s friction-laden propulsion is, in the main, concerned with wood rubbing as well as cross-bowed spiccato ringing. Kerbaj produces the most distinctive tones with bird-like chirps, buzzes and flashing tone fluttering sounding more as if they’re arising from a metal saxophone than a metal trumpet, which may be elongated with plastic tubing.
Designed as the magnum opus, “Textural Swing” offers up more than 33 minutes of textural drones, spins, shades and shudders, but there’s no swing in a Jazz-like or any equivalent Western musical fashion in it. Instead the piece is rife with flanged staccato runs from both string players and buzzy brays from Kerbaj that seem to arise from pressing the trumpet bell against unyielding metal. Atmospheric and with sequences that seem to drift in-and-out of aural focus throughout, the concession to traditional musical hierarchy only arises when the bass player’s stentorian strokes back up the trumpet solos, which ranges from comb-and-tissue-paper-like blats to internal valve-work snuffles. Eventually as Kerbaj’s output become louder and less reflective, the multiplied cries and clatters are squeezed to silence.
Instances of thought-provoking, if hardly easy listening, these dates demonstrate how with determination unusual textures can arise from the juxtaposition of strings and brass. The CDs also expose the improvisational fruits from a couple of underrepresented musical scenes.
JazzWord | Ken Waxman

Fantastic release from the Lebanese regions. Besides great collaborations with Scrambled Eggs on the Johnny Kafta label (Beach Party at Myrna el Chalouhi, Scrambled Eggs and friends) here Mazen Kerbaj performs just as The “A” trio, together with Sharif Sehnaoui and Raed Yassin (duo Praed) on motherlabel Al Maslakh. The Al Maslakh label focuses on experimental improv (their catalogue also has Brötzman, Eddie Prévost to name a few), and with the current continuous flood of improv albums, it must be difficult to release stuff that is able to stand the test. As for the test, do not look further. This record is just awesome, and also is a great introduction to the label. The 33 minutes of 'Textural Swing' is a magic pulsating piece of improv, while the other 3 tracks, blending improv and experimental with a sometimes Krautrockish texture, build up an increasing tension. This makes for a constant kind of restrained atmosphere, as if the self-created, claustrophobic tension is so high that an eruption would be so violent, it simply is not dared. The label says its mission is to publish the unpublishable in the Lebanese artistic scene. Good for us that there are people willing to make this effort.
Progress Report | Pim van der Graff

Nytt från Beirut
Al Maslakh, skivbolaget i Beirut har länge varit ett perifert centrum för improvisationsmusik, som spritts över världen. Ständigt överraskar de med fantastiskt formgivna skivor av yttersta originalitet. Nu har de dessutom framfött en busig underetikett - Johnny Kafta's Kids Menu. Litet mindre allvarlig, påstås det, men lika full av glödande energi. Och överraskningar.
Av: Thomas Millroth
Nyss har jag gnällt om det relativa stilleståndet i dagens nya musik för en god vän. Visst, här kommer drivor med CD-skivor varje vecka, men det mesta är ett slags bekräftelser. Jag ojade mig väldeliga. Avbröts av en tung duns, när nya skivor damp ner i brevlådan. Jag suckade och slet upp kuvertet. Ut föll ett gäng skivor med konvolut vars make jag aldrig sett.
Tre kvadratiska förstärkta varupåsar, ni vet sådana där kuvert med bubbelplast inuti. Gula och med vackert tryck på framsidan. Scrambled Eggs and Friends(KFT 01) med ett myller av röda figurer i svår trängsel, Scrambled Eggs and A Trio (KFT 02) med blinkande husfasader och reklam, slutligen Radio Paradise(KFT3) med en hårig herrbringa med guldlänk kikande fram bakom en rosa fritidsskjorta vackert dekorerad med vackra blommor och handgranater. Det kan bara vara en som gjort detta, tänkte jag, Mazen Kerbaj i Beirut.
Naturligtvis höll jag al Maslakhs nya underetikett Johnny Kafta's Kids Menu i handen. En litet lättsinnigare avdelning till det dödsseriösa Slakthuset (al Maslakh på arabiska).
Skivorna visade sig vara pålitlig impro och öronbedövande röj från Beirut. Där finns en liten grupp musiker, som ständigt håller energin uppe. Inte bara improvisationsmusikerna kring al Maslakh, det finns också regelbundna radioprogram, där gitarristen Charbel Haber ofta medverkar. Hans Mokthabar Ensemble eller BAO kanske är bekanta. Om inte så torde nog Scrambled Eggs väcka några aningar. Synd annars. Gruppen har funnits i flera år och utvecklat en öronbedövande dronestil med malande gitarrspel. Det är rituellt och hypnotiskt. Ett slags avlägsna släktingar till Sonic Youth. Men Haber tillsammans med basisten Tony Elieh och trummisen Malek Rizkallah har en mer mångrytmisk, litet gungande stil, där de ibland sjunker ner i stillastående klanger. De växlar också intensivare mellan stopp och gå.
På nya etiketten Johnny Kafta's Kids Menu kommer två välkomna album med Scrambled Eggs. Denna gång tillsammans med kompisar från helt andra musikgenrer. På Scrambled Eggs and A Trio samsas våra rockvänner med en av improvärldens trägnaste grupper, primus motor på scenen i Beirut. A Trio består alltså av Sharif Sehnoui, Mazen Kerbaj och Raed Yassin. I ett nästan maniskt närmare halvtimmeslångt nummer, ”Beach Party at Mirna el Chalouhi”, får vi höra gitarristen Sehnaoui och trumpetaren Kerbaj med ljud som vi inte är vana vid från deras håll. Skarpa, udda klanger prickas in i en närmast drogad intensiv musik. Det är drömskt och hårt, hett och tankspritt, men framför allt fyllt av skarpa hörn. Det är makalös rockimpro och som om inte det var nog, ökar basisten Raed Yassins feta arga bas adrenalinet. Resultatet är en kokande kittel av ilska, en krigsdans som får Mingus ”Haitian Fight Song” att framstå som sällskapsdans. Onekligen blir vi påminda om i vilken del av världen vi befinner oss.
Den andra skivan med Scrambled Eggs är inte mindre förvånande. Än en gång hälsar Kerbaj på med sin trumpet, som han smälter in i gitarrernas lavaströmmar; både Sehnaoui och Fadi Tabbal har förenat sig med Charbel Habers extatiskt brända och böljande ljud. Det är mäktigt. Musikerna spelar i litet olika kombinationer med Scrambled Eggs. Det är förvånande att lyssna på Stéphane Rives mitt i denna självutgjutelse. Han drar ner volymen men håller en svindlande fart på saxen, som är yster som en dervisch som tappat tron på gud. Samtidigt demonstrerar Scrambled Eggs hur väl de kan ta hand om Rives sönderfrätta repetitiva musiklinje. Flådd musik utan något att gömma sig bakom. Särskilt på det sistnämnda stycket får jag glimtar av den energi som ännu finns kvar i dagens improvisation. Hur det blir när alla gester fått paralysi. Fast jag kunde ju förväntat mig det av Rives. Men det är inte bara han, här finns en miljö som är öppen och sluten, kringränd och internationell på samma gång.
Bakom rubriken Radio Paradise döljer sig en helt annan slags musik, ändå besläktad, nämligen gitarristen Mike Cooper med rötter i americana. Med sin steelguitar i knäet låter han som en blandning av Bert Jansch och Derek Bailey. Kanske besläktad på långt håll med Loren Connors. Han skapar stillastående ljudbroderier med invävda trådar från kända låtar som ”Special Rider” och ”Heartbreak Hotel”. Ibland talsjunger han, mässande, monotont. Lika försjunken i sin musik som nämnde Connors låter han allt ta lång tid. Det är vilsamt, inga riktiga klimax, ruskigt spännande gitarrspel. När jag hört färdigt, tänker jag, att naturligtvis lyssnar de på den här sortens fribluescountry i Beirut. Och jag upplever plötsligt en avlägsen förbindelse med både Haber och Sehnaoui, och jag trodde aldrig jag skulle nämna de två på samma rad. Nu har jag gjort det flera gånger.
Johnny Kafta's Kids Menu lovar mycket på den genomtänkta menyn, och jag kommer inte på en enda etikett som är lika oförutsägbart självklar. Utom möjligen moderbolaget självt. När jag bläddrat bland konvolutkuverten hittar jag också al Maslakhs två nya album. Som alltid, formgivna av Mazen Kerbaj. Litet stramare och mer arty än till Johnny Kafta. Men efter alla dessa år är han fortfarande den mest mästerliga förpackaren av CD. Jag vet inte vad det är, men på varje album, utan undantag, sätter han färg, typografi och form i en egenartad samklang med musiken. Som den illustratör, serieförfattare, bokskapare, musiker och improvisatör han är kan han alla delar inifrån och lyckas få dem att förena sig på ytan.
A Trio har funnits i den moderna impron i Beirut hela tiden. Utan tvekan utnämner jag nu ”Music to our Ears” (al Maslakh 14) till ett av de viktigaste albumen på mycket länge. För här är tre starka skapare och personligheter som tillsammans blir en fjärde. Den som vill kan lyssna på det mullrande svängiga ”Textural Swing”, och när jag berättar att Sehnaoui börjat som jazzgitarrist tror ni mig. Inte en jazzton, men desto mer rytmiskt driv och stor framåtriktad energi. Han må klappra på greppbrädet eller slita i strängarna, men numera är han inte lika ikonoklastisk som tidigare. Han formar figurer på gitarren, om än ovanliga, han låter långa slingor hänga ihop. Samma sak med Kerbaj, som inte längre är lika intresserad av den showiga delen av impron: nya, oväntade, överrumplande ljud. Hans trumpet klingar ibland öppet, små ljud tillrar mot metallen, och han blåser upp musiken till en svävande zeppelinare. Basisten Yassin är tung, mullrande, bullrig, men han dansar med lätta fötter genom hela musiken och ger de andra andrum och utrymme för idéer.
Det tar ofta fyr, de överrumplar gärna varandra. Alla hänger med och tonfärgningen är mästerlig. Lyssna bara på den omväxlande ”Three Portraits in No Color”. I en minimalistisk ringdans ljuder stränginstrumenten med slag och pling medan trumpeten skapar små kurrande, fräsande ljud. En helt annan skarpare klang, nästan à la gamla swingstränggrupper, hörs i ”The Shape of Jazz That Came”. Jag tänker mig den som en ironisk kommentar till improns tidiga dagar i Beirut, då Sharif Sehnaoui försökte övertala Mazen Kerbaj och Christine Sehnaoui att spela frijazz. De vägrade. Och så blev det den här sortens jazz i stället, där Sharif uppträder med maskerad jazzgitarr. Det är ett stycke abstrakt jazz som sätter djupa spår i musikminnet. Och som sagt, de tre blir alltid tillsammans samma välspelade instrument som ständigt överraskar sig själv och inte väjer för något, inte ens sina egna övertygelser.
På al Maslakh kommer ständigt inspelningar ut med någon av gästerna på Beiruts improscen. Spill med pianisten Magda Mayas och slagverksspelaren Tony Buck är emellertid inte inspelad i Beirut, fast de har ofta varit där. Under rubriken ”Stockholm Syndrome” ligger två stycken som är inspelade i Helsingfors respektive Oslo! Trots att inspelningarna är gjorda fjärran från Beirut markerar de ändå frändskaper och band, där det går en ström av energi mellan i det här fallet Berlin och Mellanösterns numera viktigaste kulturscen, sedan Bagdad, Damaskus och Kairo tillfälligt måste stå åt sidan.
Mitt gnäll löstes upp i ett förvånat flin efter några timmar med all denna musik. Liksom i bildkonsten finner den nya musiken hela tiden nya epicentra, även när det mesta är sig ganska likt. Men det är bara på ytan. Det känns som att ha lyssnat genom en spricka i väggen på vad grannarna har för sig, och jag blir mycket nyfiken. - There's still life eller vad man nu säger i Beirut!
The Sound of Music | Thomas Millroth

Ascoltando Music to Our Ears si fatica a credere quanto scritto sul retro di una copertina sobria e senza note, ossia che la musica contenuta nel CD non presenta nessun tipo di montaggio, di overdubbing, né di elettronica. "Textural Swings" sembra contraddire in pieno questa affermazione. Il lungo brano iniziale (trentatré minuti!) è un viaggio oltre le Colonne d'Ercole del suono, tra richiami di sirene e paurose tempeste, tra la pace e la serenità che una leggera brezza è in grado di infondere ai marinai ed animi inquieti, turbati dalla natura in rivolta e da notti popolate da incubi.
Nel maelstrom provocato dai tre musicisti sembra proprio di sentire i lamenti di un sassofono, i brontolii di un trombone, i deliri e le dissonanze un ensemble di archi. Ma soprattutto giureremmo sulla presenza di uno sciamano dell'elettronica alle prese con crepitii, effetti larsen, distorsioni, delay, noise effects e quant'altro.
È davvero sorprendente come la tromba di Mazen Kerbaj espanda la propria ricchezza espressiva verso limiti inimmaginabili, come la chitarra acustica di Sharif Sehnaoui sia lontana mille miglia dagli effetti provocati dalla canonica connessione di legno e corde, come il contrabbasso di Raed Yassin assuma le sembianze di un improbabile percussione etnica, di una campana tibetana, di un onda acustica proveniente dallo spazio, di uno scherzo sonoro di natura industriale.
Ronzii, segnali morse, rumori, disturbi, accidenti, armonici, dissonanze, microtoni, da pulviscolo sonoro apparentemente fuori controllo si ricompongono magistralmente in una sorta di armonia primordiale che prima disorienta, poi stupisce e quindi affascina. La lunga traversata di "Textural Swings" sembra approdare in acque più tranquille con i tre brani successivi ( una media di sette minuti ciascuno). Dove prevalgono atmosfere più rilassate, la sensazione di ritrovarsi poco a poco in qualcosa di riconoscibile e rassicurante con gli strumenti che, in ordine sparso, recuperano parzialmente la loro natura originaria. E con gli ultimi trenta secondi di arpeggio sulla sei corde di Sehanoui a fungere da urlo liberatorio.
All About Jazz Italy | Vincenzo Roggero





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