Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mehdi Nabti & Prototype: Les règles de l'Art

French-canadian alto saxophonist and composer Mehdi Nabti is at a creative peak, developing new systems of composition based on improvisation, melodic and rythmic researchs into North-African culture.

As a composer, his methodology is derived from ancient musics, scripts, history and myths in North Africa. It is neither a style nor a subgenre, but a process of composition that Nabti calls "ethno-engineering". He incorporates also ideas that borrows from philosophy, heroic fantasy or to science fiction and he qualifies his music as part of the "Afro-Berber Continuum". As a musician, Mehdi Nabti has everything he needs to be a rising star on the jazz scene. He's technically impressive, intelligent, adventurous, he has chops for days. Nabti's tone on alto sax is gorgeous, warm and very clean with a sense of rhythm quite remarkable. He is a real stylist : his saxophone doesn't offend the ears and he's tough enough to take on your mind with great and novel colors lines without jazz clichés. 

Nabti’s previous recording with his trio ''Pulsar3'' titled ''Hybridations and Transformations'' (2016), an ambitious hybrid of afro-maghreban and jazz techniques, revealed another facet of his ever-evolving artistry. Bigger in scale, this new quartet ''Mehdi Nabti & Prototype'' expands the scope of Nabti’s oeuvre. It features Nabti joined by canadians musicians Nicolas Lafortune (electric bass, a regular on Nabti's albums), and new to the fold, Bertil Schulrabe (drums) and indo-canadian Joy Anandasivam (electric guitar). The album includes 10 studio tracks including two live tracks in trio format ''Pulsar3'' with Nicolas Lafortune on electric bass and congolese drummer/singer Lionel Kizaba.

The most exciting thing on this album is how Nabti builds the hybrid songs, where he incorporates his North African heritage with other forms of music. Nabti’s compositional approach involves interweaving shorts melodics phrases played by each members of the group – in unison and counterpoint – that cumulatively multiply and shift creating a polyrhythmic complexity. Lafortune’s pliant bass lines serve as the central rhythmic or melodic anchor like Gnawa songs, while the ensemble’s syncopated phrasing and myriad overlapping chords and lines imply forward momentum. Resulting in dense, sophisticated and groovy music with sometimes sax and vocals re-recording, Using the ensemble’s entire color palette, each piece dynamically evolves in concert with the musicians’ improvisations. 

Songs like ''Principe Fondamental'' or ''Vernaculaire'' pull in the african side of the Maghreb, and it also allows Lafortune the latitude to pull off wildly enjoyable bass lines with fascinating drums parts by Schurlabe. ''Atlas'' and ''Apeiron & Seikilos'' are the two centerpieces of the set, and are indicative, through numerous ideas, alternating hypnotic fragments that gradually transform which culminate in increasingly new lightings of the original heads. Other tracks include the swinging ''Volubilis'' with a very nice drums solo by Schulrabe, ''Atlantes'' a post-bebop-inspired cup with a walking bass; "Cyborg" and "Samsara" which offer to Anandasivam the opportunity to play two great improvisations characteristics of his Indian background. On his side Nabti is capable of gliding through ballads and punching through up-tempo numbers while still always sounding like himself. The band plays with precision and conviction; that gives off a feeling of strength but also fullness.  

Nabti regularly draws inspiration from berber and antic music, invoking alternative history to imagine a parrallel world, as with the historical references on his previous record; many of these new compositions stem from technics found in Sci-Fi, folklore and myths from North Africa. It's a dancing music, very sophisticated but always readable and accessible. From the futuristic lyricism of ''Cyborg'' to the multidirectional grooves of ''Vernaculaire'' there are ample examples of the broad sweep of Nabti’s artistry. More so than many of his recent efforts, ''Les Regles de l'Art'' stands as a key document in the development of Nabti’s compositional progress.

Track Listing: Atlas, Vernaculaire, Volubilis, Cyborg, Atlantes, Samsara, Principe Fondamental, Apeiron & Seikilos, Geomancie, Tinjis vs Ndaté Yalla.

Personnel: Mehdi Nabti: alto sax, clavé, vocals; Nicolas Lafortune: elec. bass, vocals; Bertil Schulrabe: drums; Joy Anandasivam: elec. guitar; Lionel Kizaba: drums, vocals. 

Title: Les règles de l'Art (ethno​-​ingénierie) | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced (Socan/Bandcamp)

Saburo K, Saitama, Japan.

1 comment:

  1. This is clean, exciting, dreamy, innovative, wonderful jazz. I'm a big fan. Nice review. Congratulations Mehdi and keep it coming!