The name might lead you to envisage a late-60s Californian psychedelic-rock band, but you’d be mercifully mistaken. The music is rooted in the culture of the Mahgreb, particularly Morocco.
The album title refers to the dialect of a Jewish community that settled in the area two-and-a-half millennia ago, and which has mixed with the cultures of other local populations, several of which are referenced in the music on this fascinating recording.
The band’s manifesto is “cultural destabilization designed to awaken the world from its dreamy lethargic comforts by offering a seamless and uncompromising music to a maximum audience, whether they be prepared or not…” and its leader, Yoram Rosilio, calls Marokaït one of the most demanding and difficult repertoires he has engaged with.
He refers to his “constant search to draw from ancient popular traditions in order to recreate in it the energy and revolution I found still alive in Free Jazz”. He continues: “All the other best ingredients for trance are there. It is a continuous work toward balance and freedom between mastering of the groove and incitation to chaos.” Sounds like a task and a half to me.
In the event, what Rosillio and the ARBF serve up is immediately and consistently intriguing. The stylistic mix does evoke New Orleans marching bands and New Wave free jazz, enriched by echoes of North African cultures, but the influences are well integrated. Perhaps the least unfamiliar and most intriguing of the elements from the Mahgreb are nearest the surface on Mul Anuba, Leïlaa Lill and Dance In The Cave Of Bou Jeloud, the last two of which are amongst the album’s highlights for me.
Alongside the robust ensembles and churning free episodes there are a number of atmospheric and reflective passages, usually lead by Rosilio’s bass, and several fine solos from the brass and reed players as well as some mesmeric keyboard work from Wacrenier.
(1) Kassi Frid; 3Abidat ’Rma; (2) Mul Anuba; (1) Leilaa Lill; Dance In The Cave Of Bou Jeloud; (2) Dbiha (68.44)
(1) Nicolas Souchal, Jérôme Fouquet (t, f, pc); Jean-Brice Godet (cl, f, pc); Jean-Michel Couchet (ss, as, f, pc); Florent Dupuit (ts, bf, f, picc, pc); Benoit Guenoun (ss, ts, f, pc); Paul Wacrenier (p, vib, balafon, f, pc); Rafael Koerner (d); Eric Dambrin (d, pc); Yoram Rosilio (b, f, pc, arr). Arcueil, France, 28-30 September 2016. (2) add François Mellan (Soubasophone, f, pc). Same location and dates.