Trio Ifriqiya - Petite Planète
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Trio Ifriqiya
Petite Planète
World Village/Harmonia Mundi

Contemporary interpretations of the music of Andalusia under Arab rule generally take one of two trajectories. To evocative effect, a curatorial approach characterizes the work of such artists as L'Ensemble Aromates, Orchestre Andalous D'Israel, L'Orient Imaginaire, Naguila Ensemble, Amán Amán (L'Ham de Foc), Saïd Chraïbi, and Ibn Báya. A more contemporary orientation, informed by influences as diverse as jazz and sharqi (so-called "belly dance"), animates the work of such artists as Algerian pianist Maurice El Medioni, Israeli-Arab composer Yair Dalal (violin, oud), Tunisian singer Sonia M'Barek, and Trio Ifriqiya, to name but a few.

Trio Ifriqiya comprises the compelling talents of Fayçal El Mezouar (vocals, violin, oud, percussion, trained at Algeria's El Kordobia conservatory), French jazz pianist-composer Didier Fréboeuf, and Congolese drummer-percussionist Emile Biayenda (a founding member of Les Tambours de Brazza). Inspired by the traditions of the Maghreb, yet invested with a collective improvisatory genius that blends lyrical traces from four continents, they craft a music that defies easy categorization.

El Mezouar's singing and playing is essential to the project, both the five pieces drawn from the traditional Arab-Andalusian repertoire of the Granada school, and new material, mostly Fréboeuf compositions. "Ya qalbi khelli el hal," the traditionally inspired introductory track, opens with a pensive, extended instrumental interplay powerfully restrained in its promise of wonders to come, settling into the main groove only some two minutes in, as the singer finally essays the poetic theme. By contrast, Fréboeuf's "Les personnes de la personne" begins with a funky blues-like piano riff that quickly and easily subsumes itself in an intriguing instrumental conversation with oud and percussion, a fluent mingling of sonic West and East, bracing in its freshness. There is much, much more here, a recording of continuous revelation and the irrefutable beauty of a moment that never settles easily or long in one place or time. - Michael Stone

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