Khomsa is the heroine in the movie Bezness, and also inspires one of many musical themes from Tunisian films and theater documented on this CD. Oud player Anouar Brahem has performed these pieces across a decade with different ensembles, but for the first time they were recorded in one studio setting. The instrumentation varies in size and de-emphasizes Brahem's role as a frontman. In fact, upon listening, this could just as easily be credited under the direction of the brilliant accordionist Richard Galliano, for his role is heard more often as the lead instrument. The musicians combine here and there with the dynamic ECM signature rhythm team of bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen, or in certain instances pianist François Couturier, violinist Bechir Selmi, and on rare occasion soprano saxophonist Jean Marc Larché. The themes are luxurious, rich, beautiful, and organic, with no wasted motion or excesses, and there is a feeling of being on a journey. Galliano's solo "Comme un Depart," the solo oud of Brahem in "L'Infini Jour," and Selmi's "Regard de Mouette" get the caravan slowly started. "Claquent les Voiles" sports Brahem's mysterious Middle Eastern lines and chords with the masterful bassist and drummer, while "Vague" is hymnal in Galliano's ability to stretch long tied notes with his bellows. Couturier is a delicate stylist, matching theological timbres on "Vague," and working in tandem with Brahem during "Seule" and on the light 6/8 rhythm of "Nouvelle Vague" with Galliano. He also plays a little synthesizer, specifically during the circular "Un Sentier d'Alliance" aside overdubbed echoed piano and soprano sax. Most of the collective play on "Ain Ghazel," a sensitive and sensual musical sketch, features contrasting soprano sax from Larché, atypically animated drumming by Christensen, and Brahem's pensive oud as the period on a sentence. "Souffle un Vent de Sable" shows a group design in breathing, balanced tones led by Galliano, and Brahem coming in after the fact with the bass and drums. The title track displays a unified whole in the ECM spirit with Brahem, Galliano, Couturier, and Danielsson. Closest to jazz is "Des Rayons et des Ombres," a fast trio number with Galliano and the rhythm section approaching bop. "Comme une Absence" concludes the project with two overdubbed violin tracks from Selmi. The buyer should be aware that the personnel listed on the booklet cover does not reflect the entire combo at any one time. Otherwise, this is a beautiful contemporary statement reflecting the cinematic forms Brahem loves, mixed with European classical and improvisational sensibilities, professionally rendered, and well within the tradition of world jazz and the clean ECM concept.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos