Odd Times by Rabih Abou Khalil

Odd Times is Rabih Abou-Khalil’s first live album. Since it would be impractical to assemble all of the guests he has had on his albums over the years, Abou-Khalil has gone in the other direction and pared his ensemble down to what is for him the bare bones: himself on oud, Howard Levy on harmonica, Michel Godard on tuba and serpent (an antique form of the tuba), Mark Nauseef on drums, and Nabil Khaiat on frame drums. Most live albums contain well-known pieces from the artist’s studio repertoire; in contrast, Odd Times is mostly new material. In general, the album is a mix of shapeless, overlong attempts at atmosphere (“Elephant Hips”) and fairly bouncy and fun items.

(“Q-Tips”). The pared-down lineup is engaging because Abou-Khalil’s oud and Godard’s tuba are more prominent; unfortunately, Levy’s harmonica is also pronounced, and simply clashes with the entire project of fusing Arabic music and jazz. Though in all fairness, on “The Happy Sheik” Levy sets aside his usual cadences in favor of something more bluesy that melds better with its surroundings. The album closes with a vibrant performance of “Rabou-Abou-Kabou,” one of Abou-Khalil’s best songs. ~ Kurt Keefner, All Music Guide

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