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Layale Chaker & Sarafand
Inner Rhyme

In a Circle Records (
Review by Tyran Grillo

Inner Rhyme is the debut album from celebrated Lebanese violinist-composer Layale Chaker, and plants Arabic poetry into borderless musical soil. Using the cadences of that poetry, in both classical and vernacular forms, as rhythmic infrastructure, she cultivates fresh ecosystems in which words and instruments nourish one another. The heavy nostalgia she carries in "Return To Jaykur" sets the tone for something more than the mere word "album" could ever express. Rather, it's a journey in the truest sense, tracing the footpaths of melodies seemingly aware of their own mortality.

Beside her is a faithful band of musicians: cellist Jake Charkey, bassist Nick Dunston, pianist Phillip Golub, and percussionist Adam Maalouf. The latter brings out some of the deepest impulses in the music, as in "Ushaq," which pieces together its vistas one leafless tangle at a time. Chaker, for her part, plays as one might sing, exhaling through every note with lyrical assurance. Despite the formidable control with which it's rendered, the music wraps its flesh around a fiercely driven nervous system.

One hears it in both the title and execution of "Relentless," which frames its composer like a bird in flight, as well as in "Alight Here" and the jazzier "On The Trunk Of An Olive Tree." All of these balance ancient and futureward leanings.

The album's centerpiece is the "Mkhammas Suite," which over the course of three parts reveals its heart one ventricle at a time. Its dramas are photorealistic, taking inspiration from political upheavals that have left so many scars on the face of the earth that it's all we can do not to trip as we try to avoid contributing to them.

The final movement is a masterstroke of arrangement, treating violin and cello as siblings, bass and percussion as the paths they take, and the piano as scribe for every conversation between them. The more they speak, the more our ears wish to listen. - Yran Grillo

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