|The biggest question surrounding this brilliant disc is why it languished for nearly five years before it was released to American markets. Recorded between May and October of 1999, Bakida continues with the same Sand Trio that made such a strong impression on 3 Trios (Nguyen Le, electric, acoustic, & electroacoustic guitars, computer editing, programmed synths, mandolin, and bendir; Renaud Garcia-Fons, acoustic 5 string bass; and Tino di Geraldo, drums, pandeiros, tablas, cajon, and palmas). They're here augmented by some world-class guests including Chris Potter (tenor sax), Paolo Fresu (trumpet), and Jon Balke (piano), as well as others not so well known but equally accomplished: Carles Benavent (electric 5 string bass), Karim Ziad (gumbri karkabous, bendir, tarija, vocals), Hao Nhien Pham (meo & sao flutes, vocals), Kudsi Erguner (ney flute), and Illya Amar (marimba, tuned gongs). Hailing from countries as diverse and geographically separated as Vietnam, France, Algeria, Italy, Turkey, Norway, USA, and Spain, this mélange of world musicians creates a mysterious, mesmeric aural signature, bringing to mind the harsh austerity and stark beauty of desert landscapes. There's also a richness of coloration that stunningly evokes the kind of red-rock wilderness one encounters, say, in Monument Valley or Capital Reef National park. But the vibe (primarily) suggests North Africa, Southern Spain, and the Middle East, not the American Southwest, and to a lesser extent the vast steppes of Asia and the Arctic regions of Scandinavia.
Perhaps the leader says it best in the liner notes to this disc: "I like to think of this record as a banquet, to which each guest has come through his own way, to converse about nearness and distance, sweet and salt . . . Then, if emotions are in tune, secret connections come into light and music can become a universal language. Each course of this banquet has been concocted for each guest, and one may relish some unexpected encounters: with Turkey, Norway, America, Spain, Sardinia, Algeria, and Vietnam, of course. Thus the melodies will be transfigured by those who sing them. Unlike Tales from Vietnam or Maghreb & Friends, Bakida does not deal with a specific culture. I rather see it as a synthesis of attainments and emotions, an inner motion that bears so many influences and dreams. May all those colors, accents, and spices gather in a sincere and single voice, like a middle path between the streams of cultures: West and East, middle and extreme, South and North, radiant and magnetic."
Please excuse the lengthy quote, but I couldn't say it any better. Surly one of a handful of truly great world jazz discs ever recorded. Absolutely not to be missed.