Jon Balke, Amina Alaoui – Siwan (2009) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Jon Balke, Amina Alaoui – Siwan (2009)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 1:04:18 minutes | 1,33 GB | Genre: Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
Official Digital Download – Source: | Digital Booklet | © ECM

Magical music, trailing deep roots. The listener is at first struck by the power of Amina Alaoui’s voice, soaring above Jon Balke’s remarkable compositions for baroque ensemble – with soloists drawn from jazz, scattered improvisational traditions, and the world of early music. Behind this remarkable musical integration is a web of philosophical, historical, and literary interconnections, as Balke and Alaoui set texts from Sufi poets, Christian mystics, troubadours and more and – inspired by the tolerant and creative spirit of medieval Al-Andalus – ponder what was lost to the bonfires of the Inquisition. Setting new standards in transcultural music, SIWAN shows what can be made today when artists of the most divergent background pool their energies.

On his latest project, Siwan, Norwegian pianist and composer Jon Balke blends a variety of traditional musical styles, finding common ground among their cultural and geographical differences. Calling on inspirations from Sufi, Christian and Jewish mysticism, Balke imagines a melding of European and Middle Eastern cultures free from the stifling flames of the Inquisition.

Siwan, the title of keyboardist and composer Jon Balke’s sixth album for ECM, is derived from a mixed language known as “Aljamiado,” spoken during the Spanish Inquisition. Scholars define the word as “equilibrium” or “balance.” In a sense, the definition of the title is key to this gorgeous work by Balke. Commissioned by the Oslo Club Cosmopolite in 2006, Balke decided to create a program of composed and improvised music that would cross three cultures and time periods. First he invited Moroccan vocalist Amina Alaoui to perform with his own international group, and enlisted Bjarte Eike’s early music group Barokk Solistene as well. This intersection of cultures north and south — Gharnati music that comes from the Spanish Al-Andalus period (730-1492) of Alaoui’s own heritage, the Baroque music played by Eike’s orchestra, and the Scandinavian improvised music and jazz played by Balke’s group — intersect not only three periods, but cultures, at the only crossroads where identity can be fused seamlessly: music. Balke’s band includes trumpeter Jon Hassell — a creator of “Fourth World Music” and no stranger to unusual hybrids — violinist Kheir Eddine Mekachiche, percussionist Helge Norbakken, and zarb player Pedram Khavar Zamini. The music here is of almost indescribable beauty. Alaoui sings the poems of Al-Andalus poets, and is backed by a free-flowing group that combines the Arab violin tradition with the older Muslim Gharnati, the spacious, icy jazz of the far Northern hemisphere, and the classical discipline of the Baroque period, where improvisation intersects seamlessly with composition, where the theatrical and historical meld flawlessly and seem to grow from the same seed. The emotional transference of all the players of the material Balke has composed (and here, conducted) is total and indeed feels like an entirely new genre of music. The listener can discern the individual elements, and experience the blur between them where something else emerges, something wholly Other, but whose shadows and traces have been gleaned from earlier times, as they’ve gone on to influence this new, eternal present. Check the gorgeous percussion that engages Hassell and Alaoui in “Itimad.” Listen to the glorious interaction between the harpsichord, Hassell, and the strings in “Zahori,” and feel the layers of time simply peel away. Every track here reveals something unusual, brings something hidden and alien to the fore even as it beguiles the listener with its intimacy of secret histories and knowledge. Siwan is Balke’s masterpiece thus far, and will hopefully become as influential as it is groundbreaking.

01 – Tuchia
02 – O Andalusin
03 – Jadwa
04 – Ya Safwati
05 – Ondas do mar de Vigo
06 – Itimad
07 – A la dina dana
08 – Zahori
09 – Ashiyin Raiqin
10 – Thulathiyat
11 – Toda ciencia trascendiendo

Amina Alaoui – vocal
Jon Balke – keyboards, conductor
Jon Hassell – trumpet, electronics
Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche – violin
Helge Norbakken – percussion
Pedram Khavar Zamini – zarb

Bjarte Eike – violin, leader
Per Buhre – violin
Peter Spissky – violin
Anna Ivanovna Sundin – violin
Milos Valent – violin
Rastko Roknic – viola
Joel Sundin – viola
Tom Pitt – violoncello
Kate Hearne – violoncello, recorder
Mattias Frostensson – double-bass
Andreas Arend – theorboe, archlute
Hans Knut Sveen – harpsichord, clavichord


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