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There’s a short interlude in the middle with just piano and oud harmonising the melody, and it’s the keyboard that offers romanticism. Mr Bates circling and rippling through and across Brahem’s picked variant melody, pinging and holding the notes; Holland and De Johnette adding eggshell cracks into the mix. The title track has the oud picking a maqam against a wisp of De Johnette. The oud continues and then the super drummer is back, not being ‘super drummer’, just hitting it damn right.This oud is splitting hairs, coming on New York, touching a tougher place. (I wonder if anyone has ever told Jack De Johnette how good he is at grace-glancing off cymbals? When I first heard Anouar Brahem all those years ago spilling beans into Ustad Shaukat Hussain’s tablas - . But you know, twenty years on, to hear this laid back pull-off PLUCK pick into the Jack De Johnette swish and pulse, it makes me feel like asking what took them so long? Another fine thing about this new session is that Brahem quotes from his past without carrying on living there.He’s positioned himself inside a ‘J-word’ quartet, albeit one that is working outside boundaries.And to complete this act of transformation he has added the piano of Django Bates.Except that what builds from the bass solo is serious J-word oud coming on wonderfully strung out (for certain, he’s been listening to guitarist Kevin Eubanks with Holland). It’s a nine minute study in empathetic group playing and really it could have been double the length.I guess things had to make way for , built on a tightly disguised blues pedal point. Right now it sounds like a career best – but hey, it’s Django Bates, and I could think of a few that come into that category.
Embracing a fully-fledged symphonic poise, the tune revolves around the melody at first but speeds up conveniently for Kamasi’s solo, favourably challenged by guitarist Matt Haze’s pretty annotations and Graves’ responsive and diametrically opposed harmonic layouts.
He does this with a deep understanding of the past and an eye in the future. In January 2015 I reviewed Rez Abbasi’s acoustic album, track, and set the piece up unplugged.
I’d keep on going back to Mr Abbasi’s acoustic version.
You can tell Bates is lucid and on the right ‘road’ because when Anouar Brahem’s oud eventually picks up the theme from him it is as if the pianist has already understood the pathos of the melody.
Django Bates has done the work, leaving the oud to grasp a visceral improvised soundscape from this setting.