East Meets West by Ahmed Abdul-Malik

The late Ahmed Abdul-Malik was one of the first musicians to integrate non-Western musical elements into jazz. Best known to jazz listeners as a bassist with Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston, Coleman Hawkins, and many others, he made a few records as a leader, with this one being his most exotic and also the hardest to find. The Brooklyn native was of Sudanese descent; in addition to playing bass on this interesting blend of Middle Eastern instruments with those from the world of jazz, he also plays oud, the forerunner to the lute. The musicians on Malik’s eight originals vary from track to track. On the mournful “La Ibky (Don’t Cry),” Malik’s oud shares the spotlight with a tenor sax (either Benny Golson or Johnny Griffin) plus trumpeter Lee Morgan. “Rooh (The Soul)” features the 72-string kanoon (which is sort of a brittle sounding and much smaller harp) played by Ahmed Yetman, along with Malik’s arco bass and the droning violin of Naim Karacand. The Middle Eastern instruments are absent during “Searchin’,” which is sort of a hard bop vehicle featuring trombonist Curtis Fuller and Jerome Richardson on flute, along with the tenor sax. “Takseem (Solo)” omits the jazz instruments; the slowness of the variations of the music and rather piercing vocal make it harder for Western ears to comprehend. Not a release of interest to everyone but, for the most part, this fusion of vastly different styles of music is quite enjoyable; it’s obvious from the start that the musicians were enjoying themselves as it was recorded. This long out print LP will be difficult to locate.» (AMG)

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