Il Sospiro by Rabih Abou-Khalil

With more than half a million records sold, Rabih Abou-Khalil is among the top artists on the European jazz market. His name has long been associated with a musical style quite his own that is rooted in Arab tradition, American jazz and European classical music alike but goes far beyond all these. Raised in the cosmopolitan climate of Beirut (Lebanon), Abou-Khalil studied the oud, the Arab short-neck lute, from an early age. Forced by civil war to leave his home country in 1978, he went to Munich (Germany) to study classical flute at the conservatory. From the European perspective, he re- discovered Arab music in a new way and developed possibilities for himself to work simultaneously in two basically different musical systems. A new genre was born.

Abou-Khalil’s complex compositions, often based on odd and changing metres, using Arab scales and integrating improvised statements, tend to meander charmingly like oriental tales. In a dozen recordings Abou-Khalil has proved his musical concept to work in different settings: with Arab musicians like Selim Kusur (nay) or Nabil Khaiat (percussion), with great jazz soloists like Charlie Mariano (sax) or Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), with world music protagonists like Michel Godard (tuba) and Milton Cardona (percussion) and even with classical ensembles like Balanescu Quartet and Kronos Quartet.

On his first recording as an unaccompanied oud player, Rabih Abou-Khalil steps forward to new ground. “Il Sospiro” came to life as some kind of musical diary over a period of two years. Whenever the artist felt the inner need to document new musical ideas, he called up his collaborator and sound engineer Walter Quintus for studio time. With great spontaneity and extraordinary sound quality guaranteed, the listener will feel as if sitting in the same room with the musician. “Il Sospiro” shows an intimate, fresh and emotional way of playing the oud that neither aims at virtuosity nor nostalgia. Rich of melody, rhythm, dynamics and creative form, “Il Sospiro” presents something very rare: a personal statement of unpretentious, natural beauty.

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