Le Trio Joubran: AsFar (World Village/Ode)

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Le Trio Joubran: Zawaj el Yamam
Le Trio Joubran: AsFar (World Village/Ode)

A previous album Majaz by these oud-playing Palestinian brothers was a Best of Elsewhere 2008 selection, so this one seems long overdue -- although I have just learned there was a live album in '09 which was aimed at the local market.

They are the fourth generation in their family of players and oud makers but, to these ears at least, do not sound so steeped in tradition as to be unable to move out from it. You wouldn't be surprised to learnt the Kornos Quartet, for example, was keen to play alongside them.

And this album -- with occasional vocal contributions by Dhafer Youssef -- really sees them stretch: the moody and atmospheric Douja is delivered over lightly tapped percussion (by Youssef Hbeisch) where the brothers take solo space which is mind and melody bending, and Sama Cordoba evokes Moorish Spain with dramatic flamenco passages.

The masterwork is the 15 minute improvised title track which opens with a low and slightly unnerving cello-like sound and gradually opens out into a raga-like piece with notes and melodic lines being explored.

The difference is of course that in a raga only one melody instrument usually takes the lead, here the three players entwine their lines and keep things tense and constrained until halfway through when the rhythms pick up and a roiling boil is steadily established -- but just when you think they are aiming for white heat . . .

The final piece, Masana, is the most traditional.

Le Trio Joubran are something unique and this mesmerising album deserves your serious attention.

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