Tunisian composer, oud player and singer Dhafer Youssef is a wandering musician constantly migrating from one country to another within Europe and North Africa, having lived and worked in Tunisia, France, Austria, Norway or Turkey over the years. Following up on the superb Abu Nawas Rhapsody (2010), Dhafer Youssef’s new album Birds Requiem reunites the musician with Norwegian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer and guitarist Eivind Aarset but also introduces new musical partners including British double bass player Phil Donkin, Turkish clarinet player Hüsnü Şenlendirici and Estonian born pianist Kristjan Randalu.
Dhafer Youssef doesn’t consider himself a jazz musician. Yet, jazz musicians provide him with the space and freedom he requires to flourish and it is in their company he feels more at ease. Although he is constantly drawing on middle-eastern spirituality and on the Sufi tradition for inspiration, Dhafer Youssef doesn’t consider himself a religious person either. Yet, the bird theme throughout the album suggests not only physical altitude but also spiritual elevation.
In musical terms, Birds Requiem is constantly reaching for the divine. On a track like “Whirling birds ceremony”, the interweaving dialogue in pitch perfect harmony between Dhafer Youssef’s melismatic voice and Hüsnü Şenlendirici’s clarinet is breathtaking, while the impressionistic piano of Kristjan Randalu paints the most beautiful picture.