Archive for the ‘Rabih Abou-Khalil’ Category

Between Dusk & Dawn by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 20, 2008

One of Abou-Khalil’s earlier albums, Between Dusk and Dawn features stellar sidemen such as master percussionist Glen Velez and jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano. In places it exhibits that ecstatic melding of jazz and Arabic music that was later perfected on Blue Camel. But in other places it gives us long patches of noodling and less-then-engaging playfulness.

An example of the former would be the first track, “Dusk.” At just over 14 minutes, more than half of this piece is devoted to a shapeless and tiresome prelude for percussion and oud (Arabic lute). An example of the latter is the aptly named “The Thing that Came out of the Swamp,” which features everything but the kitchen sink, including Glen Velez’s overtone singing, in a fantasy that sounds like Stravinsky crossed with Steve Reich. Yet there are solid, jazzy tracks like “Chess with Mal” which opens with a long but well-formed solo by Charlie Mariano before sax and oud synchronize for one of Abou-Khalil’s gloriously rhythmic tunes. Or “Dawn,” where Abou-Khalil plays one of his favorite tricks of making it sound as if the melody of the piece grows out of his initial improvisation. Despite the album’s lack of overall focus, it does offer a bounty for the ear, especially in the percussion. A disc for fans of one or more of the musicians involved. ~ Kurt Keefner, All Music Guide

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Arabian Waltz by Rabih Abou Khalil

October 20, 2008

Arabian Waltz is the pinnacle of Rabih Abou-Khalil’s achievement as a composer and arranger. It is a sublime fusion of jazz, Middle Eastern traditional music, and Western classical. In addition to Abou -Khalil on oud (the Arabic lute), Michel Godard on the tuba and the serpent (the tuba’s antique kinsman), and Nabil Khaiat on frame drums, the album also features the Balanescu String Quartet instead of the usual trumpet or sax. The presence of the Balanescu might seem to pose a dilemma for the composer: traditional Middle Eastern music uses no harmony but a string quartet is all about harmony. Abou-Khalil achieves a compromise by generally writing the string parts in unison (or in octaves), in effect using the quartet as a single voice, but also letting the quartet split up to play parts in unison with the other instruments or to provide ornamentation. Without surrendering jazziness at all, the presence of the strings makes possible a wondrous atmosphere, almost as if one is listening to the soundtrack of a classy movie set in Beirut or Damascus during the ’40s. This feeling is greatest on “Dreams of a Dying City” with its brooding tuba and cello motifs and grave, repeated rhythms. “The Pain After” starts with an impressive tuba solo that turns into a long interlude for tuba and string quartet; sad, slow music that sounds like one of Beethoven’s late quartets. Then Abou-Khalil finally enters on oud, bringing a sustained note of wistfulness. Fortunately, beside the darker numbers lie the propulsive drama of “Arabian Waltz” and the bobbing and weaving quirkiness of “Ornette Never Sleeps.” Abou-Khalil is known for experimenting with the possibilities his guest musicians bring to his style. In this case, the guests have inspired the host to reach a new height and maybe even a new style. This recording suits every fan of world music, jazz, classical, or just good music. ~ Kurt Keefner, All Music Guide

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Odd Times by Rabih Abou Khalil

October 20, 2008

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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Songs For Sad Women by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 20, 2008

BBC.com:
After twenty-five years and eighteen albums, it is unlikely that Rabih Abou-Khalil is going to spring any great surprises; long ago he found a distinctive individual style and has stuck to it since – with sufficient variations to keep it fresh and interesting. One need only hear this music for a few seconds to identify its creator. Aficionados will find everything that keeps them coming back for more; the characteristic blend of jazz-inflected Arabic melody with subtle rhythms combines into a hypnotic whole, as ever with Abou-Khalil’s fluent oud playing in a central role.

On this album, the variation that stops the music becoming formulaic is the inclusion of guest artist Gevorg Dabaghyan, who plays duduk, a Georgian instrument similar to an oboe. In Dabaghyan’s hands, it has a haunting, mournful sound that dominates the album. The opening track, “Mourir Pour Ton Décolleté” is a prolonged showcase for Dabaghyan, and one of the album’s highlights.

Newcomers to Abou-Khalil can start here with confidence. Although the instrumentation of oud, serpent, duduk and drums may look exotic, the sound is easy on the ear. The serpent, an ancient blown instrument vaguely like a tuba or euphonium – played here by Michel Godard – largely fulfils the role of bass, but there is a fascinating serpent solo midway through “Para O Teu Bumbum” which reveals the instrument’s versatility and hidden depths. For a prime example of the group sound, listen to “Le Train Bleu”, with its half-familiar melodic line, the kind you can sing along to on the second listen. It’s just one of the wonders of this album…

Enjarecords.com:
Abou-Khalil’s new album “Songs For Sad Women” radiates with charming, elegiac beauty. Consisting of four players — on oud (Arab lute), on duduk (Armenian shawm), on serpent (a mysterious brass instrument from the Middle Ages) and drums –, the band’s rather singular instrumental mixture makes for an extraordinary sound experience. This is Abou-Khalil’s most emotional music to date, heart- gripping, relaxed and haunting. The album’s guest star is Gevorg Dabaghyan, one of the most famous players of the duduk, Armenia’s traditional oboe and national symbol. Born in 1965 in Yerevan, Dabaghyan graduated from State Conservatory in 1989 and was the first to present Armenian mediaeval spiritual music on the duduk. He became famous for his cross-cultural collaborations with such as Jan Garbarek, Gidon Kremer and Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project. In Dabaghyan’s hand, the duduk becomes an autumn breeze, fresh and bright. Like a rainbow in the sky, like an eternal voice coming from the mountains and rivers of Armenia, the sound of the duduk touches the listener’s heart and soul.

Personnel:
Rabih Abou-Khalil oud
Gevorg Dabaghyan duduk
Michel Godard serpent
Jarrod Cagwin drums

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Il Sospiro by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 20, 2008

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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Morton’s Foot by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 20, 2008

Amazon.com:
For more than a decade, Lebanese oud master Rabih Abou-Khalil has infused traditional Arabic music of all stripes with elements of modern music from around the world, most notably jazz. Morton’s Foot, Abou-Khalil’s 13th album, doesn’t flavor its Arabic melodies and rhythms with electronic programming. Instead, Abou-Khalil’s fusion is done much in the same way that jazz musicians have embraced Klezmer or Indian music: it uses top-flight musicianship instead of beats and sounds to build the bridges. Here, the leader plays lengthy leads on oud that concentrate on rhythm just as much as melody as a five-piece support cast (drums, accordion, vocals, tuba, clarinet) follows his every twist and turn. Sometimes one leaps ahead to solo on their own, with clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi and tuba player Michel Godard both doing yeoman’s work. A uniformly strong effort by a truly unique innovator, Morton’s Foot is ideal listening for fans who put free-ranging musicianship and innovation at a premium. – Tad Hendrickson

Allmusic.com:

The band on Morton’s Foot is a truly international ensemble. Composer and master oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil has assembled a cast that includes accordionist Luciano Biondini and clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi along with Michel Godard on tuba, Jarrod Cagwin on trap and frame drums, and exotic Italian vocalist Gavino Murgia. Abou-Khalil composed all the tracks here. He shares the front line with Biondini and Mirabassi as Godard adds a serious bottom-end punch to the rhythm section. Certainly there are precedents for a group like this: Richard Galliano’s 1980s bands as well as Chris Speed and Brad Shepik’s Pachora, for example. Abou-Khalil’s compositions here, as on his other recordings, involve detailed, complex and labyrinthine melodic structures, though rhythmic invention and harmonic counterpoint add balance and offer tight turns of phrase and dynamic shifts. The title track, “Lobotomie Mi Baba Lu,” and “Hopping Jack” are standout tracks, yet it is the sum of everything here that makes this one of Abou-Khalil’s very best outings. ~ Thom Jurek

Personnel: Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud); Gavino Murgia (vocals); Luciano Biondini (accordion); Gabriele Mirabassi (clarinet); Michel Godard (tuba); Jarrod Cagwin (drum, frame drum).

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Bukra by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 20, 2008

“Bukra” sits somewhere between the improvisational “Between Dusk And Dawn” and the traditional “Nafas”. Although the percussion still plays a very important role in the music, it is not as dominant as it was on “Nafas”. There are 7 tracks, building to the excellent “Reflections” which closes the album. The lineup for this album is very similar to “Between Dusk And Dawn”.

Amazon.com reviewer:
In this time of paranoia, perhaps it may be helpful to engage in sampling once again the civilization of the Middle East which has given us among other things, algebra, Tutankhamen and the oud. This last is, as we know, the grandaddy of the lute which is the father of the guitar. The sound of the oud in the hands of such as Rabih Abou-Khalil is quite ravishing. On this CD its beauty is everywhere apparent but especially so on the track Reflections which features the oud solo. But this is only part of the musical story in this wonderful programme of music. Percussion and hence rhythm is at its heart. Mr Glen Moore, once of Oregon, on bass, Glen Velez on drums, and Ramesh Shotham on percussion provide a rich, hypnotic and vital tapestry of sounds against which Mr Abou-Khalil and Mr Fortune (brilliant on alto) investigate their respective melodic and harmonic possibilities. Mr Fortune’s solo on the title track is achingly beautiful whilst his passionate, lonely opening to Kibbe is revelatory and could stand alone as a voice combining elements of jazz, the desert, and Indian music all at once – this is sound that should echo in our hearts as we ponder the notion of war in the Middle East against one of the “axis’ of evil”. Not a dull moment on this CD. If you like “world music”, jazz or simply good music, this is for you. After many listenings over six years, I still revere it.

Personnel: Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud), Sonny Fortune (alto saxophone), Glen Moore (bass), Glen Velez (frame drums, percussion, overtone vocals), Ramesh Shotham (South Indian drums, percussion).

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Journey to the Centre of an Egg by Rabih Abou-Khalil

October 16, 2008

Oud Master Rabih Abou-Khalil Continues To Break New Boundaries With His Latest Enja/Justin Time recording, Journey To The Centre Of An Egg.

For nearly a quarter century, Lebanese-born oud master Rabih Abou-Khalil has defied all of the artificial boundaries and labels to create a musical world entirely his own. With Journey To The Centre Of An Egg, his latest release on Justin-Time/Enja, Rabih once again proves that to the truly visionary artist, creativity offers a canvas of unlimited possibilities.

Even many of the most singular and iconoclastic musicians will establish a foundation niche upon which they construct their adventurous explorations. Rabih refuses to be bound even by his own previous designs. With Journey To The Centre Of An Egg – his 11th Enja production and the second to be licensed to Justin Time for North America (following up on the heavily acclaimed Morton’s Foot) – Abou-Khalil brings the piano into his unique musical world for the first time on record. Most appropriately, he has chosen the extraordinary German pianist/composer Joachim Kühn, one of Europe’s most accomplished and respected jazz musicians since he arrived on the scene in the early 1960s.

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