Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
October 5, 2022 - 12:19pm EDT
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Recorded during the 2021 pandemic, singer Lynn Adib and bassist Marc Buronfosse decided on an album title of Nearness to capture feelings of confinement, isolation and alienation that people were experiencing. Their set opens  with Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You,” sung with Arabic lyrics, English and some vocalese. Upon completion of their journey westward, the set closes with an eerie rendition of the same song sung in English.

The duo formed in the summer of 2020 during a memorable, improvised gig on the island of Paros. A few tracks are embellished with instrumental colorings from Jasser Haj Youssef (viola d’amore), Rishab Prasanna (bansuri flute) and Mosin Kawa (tabla). Their minimalistic cover of a Broadway standard, “I Loves You, Porgy” has a rather exotic, worldly sensibility, just as do their covers of Radiohead’s “Present Tense” and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”

Several  tracks recorded in a Greek Orthodox Church in Athens feature well-known male Byzantine choir, Antifoniko Melos. These haunting selections are “Qalb,” “Sou’al,” “Tawnimar Toubo,” “Adagio choral,” and “Megalinaria.” Recording with such a choir was a dream for Lynn Adib, as she had learned to sing in the choir of the Orthodox Church in Damascus. Original compositions such as “So Far, So Near” and “Adeeb” are also crowning moments in the captivating set that allow for adventurous improvisation and harmonic exploration.  Marc Buronfosse’s self-penned “Naoussa Kampos” further provides an intimate take on the world.

With Nearness, Adib and Buronfosse bring their various musical influences into closer proximity and clearer perspective. In the making of this album, they no doubt zoomed in on how to best meld feminine voice, bass, viola d’amore, bansouri, tabla, as well as incorporate a robust, masculine Byzantine choir. Now that they’ve produced this project with telescopic detail, listeners should zoom out to a wide-angle perspective to fully appreciate the vocal sounds, strings, percussion, feelings and moods on their westward journey from the Middle East, particularly Syria. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)