Naïssam Jalal: Healing Rituals review | John Fordham’s jazz album of the month

(Les Couleurs du Son)
A remarkable artist, the visionary flautist and her skilful partners have created a startling album that draws on techniques from classical, jazz, hip-hop and more

It was the Neanderthals who imagined a soundmaking miracle hiding in a cave bear’s leg bone and carved it into the oldest known musical instrument. Should any of them happen to drop by 50,000 years later, the anthemic flute-funk of the modern instrument’s current pop renaissance would blow their minds. But some of their invention’s oldest virtues might nonetheless be reassuringly familiar – soft-blown tones like sighs or whispers, evocations of birdsong or rainforest chatter. In the startling flute sound of the Paris-raised, Franco-Syrian improviser and composer Naïssam Jalal, its oldest virtues and wildest modern manifestations become one.

The flute came into its own as a solo jazz instrument through such pioneers as Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in the 1950s and 60s, broadminded improvising virtuosi who drew on ancient and modern techniques from cultures all over the globe. Jalal is a comparable 21st-century visionary, a remarkable artist who draws on Arabic, African, classical and jazz techniques, hip-hop and more. She was hospitalised when she imagined the cinematic Healing Rituals, an album later realised with subtly skilful partners Clément Petit on cello, Claude Tchamitchian on bass, and Zaza Desiderio on drums.

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