Munir Bashir
Irak: L'art du 'ud
Ocora (France)

Similar to a raga in Indian music, a taqsim is a melodic improvisation based on a particular mode or maqam. Actually a more precise equivalent might be the alap section of a raga, where the melodic material is presented and explored. So this CD is a collection of eight taqsims, using eight different maqams (which number in the thousands). Some of these maqams are sufficiently different from traditional Western scales, often by virtue of flatted seconds and/or sixths, and by the use of quarter-tones which make up a large part of the oud's vocabulary. And, again as in Indian music, regional differences apply--about half the maqams on this CD are particular to the Iraqi area.

Given the form's inherent restrictions, Bashir's improvisations are elegantly melodic. He tends to favor short phrases, and certain moments remind me of the kind of development one might find in unaccompanied saxophone solos by Anthony Braxton or Roscoe Mitchell. Bashir's technique allows the listener to forget the stringent rules of the form in which he works and enjoy the music on a purely sensual level. - Joe Grossman