Sophie Tassignon – Khyal

Sophie Tassignon – Khyal

It is a while since I have listened repeatedly to an album in a foreign language where the lyrics are obviously central to the whole exercise remain a mystery to me, the singer’s voice becoming another instrument, but I suppose it makes one listen more intently to the music. And such is the power of this often gentle but always highly expressive music that I just cannot stop hitting repeat. I decided I must let the English-speaking prog world, or at least this tiny corner of it, know about this album, so bear with me while I try to give you some idea of what stirred me to tap away at this keyboard in the dead of a long rain sodden night, or three.

Belgian born Sophie Tassignon is well-known over Le Manche, especially in Germany as a jazz chanteuse of some repute, and here she has assembled a band of great talent from the local jazz scene. Yes, you guessed it, this is essentially a jazz singer’s album, but the music herein is just beautiful, and so melodic as to melt the heart of any listener no matter how much they think they dislike jazz, if only they would have the courage to give it a listen.

The story behind this album is all on the Bandcamp page, but to summarise, Khyal, meaning “remembering and/or longing for something from the (distant) past” is a project incorporating Sophie’s Arabic poems that deal with the hand of fate and a sense of loss, particularly poignant in current times. Sophie kindly provided me with some translations, and this is from Time Is Your Only Healer:

I hold in tears the land I loved
Where heroes are the ones I’ve lost
I watch and say no prayer
As time is our only healer

Sophie learned Arabic after working in a refugee shelter for rootless Syrians near her home in Berlin. The album hopes to promote tolerance towards refugees fleeing persecution, wherever they happen to be.

Khyal is progressive in that it dares to promote an idea through musical expression, using the aforementioned Arabic poetry, which has a deep humanity and puts forward the simple and one would hope against hope, obvious idea that peace and harmony is ultimately the ideal for living.

Khyal is an album of harmony, both of musical worlds and cultural interaction, leading to a feeling of longing and ultimately peace. This is so important in a time when state sponsored mass murder continues unabated in the very lands from where the inspiration for this remarkable album hails. It shows there are other, far better ways of living than by intransient intolerance and one-eyed denial of truth.

Sophie’s voice is as clear as a bell, and often soars through the heavens as a graceful bird in full flight, and her enunciation is nigh on perfect. I can phonetically hear everything she is singing even if I do not understand a word. The musical backing is such a perfect fit, and something as gorgeous as Peter Van Huffel’s lengthy sax solo on Kitebak will have you swooning. As if to indulge my ignorance, Sophie embarks on some delightful scat singing on Tes’al, once more followed by one of Peter’s sax breaks. The guitar is more understated, here and generally, and along with the unhurried drums and bass forms part of a sophisticated rhythm section that never misses a beat.

This is a truly lovely suite of songs that anyone with an appreciation of sophisticated melody, and a human heart, cannot fail to appreciate.

01. Everybody Knows (6:27)
02. Khyal (4:55)
03. Time Is Your Only Healer (5:41)
04. Kitebak (6:35)
05. The Card Game (6:51)
06. Tes’al (5:36)
07. The Wave Has Passed (6:42)
08. Etab (5:24)

Total Time – 49:11

Sophie Tassignon – Voice, Compositions
Peter Van Huffel – Alto & Baritone Sax
Hub Hildenbrand – Guitar
Roland Fidezius – Electric Bass
Matthias Ruppnig – Drums
~ With:
Lina Allemano – Trumpet

Record Label: W.E.R.F. Records
Country of Origin: Belgium/Germany
Date of Release: 20th October 2023

Sophie Tassignon – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube