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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Groove Alla Turca by Burhan Öçal & Jamaaladeen Tacuma

October 20, 2008

“Groove alla Turca” brings together the traditional rhythms of Turkey with afro-american musical forms such as jazz, blues, funk, hip-hop and soul. Turkish percussion virtuoso Burhan Öçal and his Turkish band join forces with bass master Jamaaladeen Tacuma and some of the finest musicians from New York and Philly (Art Baron, Jack Walrath, Ben Schachter and Daryl Burge to name a few) to create a funky sound with many colors and intricate details. Natasha Atlas’ ethereal voice is heard on four tracks, where her Arabic vocals flow meticulously with the groove.

“Groove Alla Turca” is a project that brings together two worlds apart; the world of Burhan Öçal, who grew up playing traditional rhythms of Turkey, with that of Jamaaledeen Tacuma, a world of jazz, blues, funk and soul. This is a meeting of percussion and bass, rhythm and groove, of traditional players on kanun, oud and clarinet, darbuka and violin. Jamaaladeen Tacuma is joined by some of the finest musicians from New York and Philadelphia, Jack Walrath, a long time associate of Mingus, is the trompet in the horn section. Art Baron and Ben Schachter complete the front-line on the trombone and tenor, Daryl Burge and Rick Iannacone, both from Phili, are the force behind, on the drums and the guitar. It was a destiny to have Natacha Atlas on four tracks, as she happened to be in town during the recording sessions. Her presence seems all planned as her Arabic vocals flow wih the groove. The result is a funky sound with many colors, a big sound with many details. This is jazz, funk, ethnic, tradition. This is groove in a Turkish way.

Burhan Öçal, born in Kırklareli, a town in Thrace, was introduced to percussion through his father and to religious vocal music through his mother. As well as “seraille” and folk music, he was also influenced by Turkish neo-classical music. He is a master of all kinds of percussion such as “darbuka”, “kös” (kettledrum), “kudüm” and “bendir” also of Turkish stringed instruments such as “divan-saz”, tanbur and “ud” (oud). Combining Turkish classical and folk influences with western classical music, or Turkish folk music with jazz, he performed with celebrated pianist Maria Joao Prires, Joe Zawinul, Eliot Fisk; among others he has a duo with pianist Peter Waters and generally performs in and out of Turkey with his İstanbul Oriental Ensemble. His first recording with İstanbul Oriental Ensemble, “Gypsy Rum” won the 1995 German Record Critics’ Award. The second recoring “Sultan’s Secret Door” also won the German Record Critics’s Award in 1997. “Jardin Ottoman” received Prix Choc in 1996.

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Duo De Ud by Munir Bashir & Omar Bashir

October 20, 2008

Munir Bashir was one of the most famous musicians in the Middle East during the 20th century and was considered to be the supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system. He created different styles of the Arabian short scaled lute, the oud. He was one of the first Arabian instrumentalists known to Europe and America. Bashir’s music is distinguished by a novel style of improvisation that reflects his study of Indian and European tonal art in addition to oriental forms.

Despite not being an ethnic Arab, Munir played a big role in Arab culture throughout the 20th century. Born in Iraq, he had to deal with numerous disruptions of violent coup attempts and multiple wars that the country went through. He would eventually exile to Europe and become noticeble first in eastern nations such as Hungary and Bulgaria.

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Arabian Traditional Takhat Ensemble

October 20, 2008

Musical instruments of the Arab world reflect the unity and diversity within the music itself. Certain types of instruments, including end-blown reed flutes, double-reeds, single-reeds, fiddles, plucked lutes and frame drums predominate. Yet, in each area, there may be a preference for particular instruments or instrument types. Moreover, details of construction and playing techniques are affected by local intonation and sound ideals, availability of construction materials, external musical influences, and the functions assigned to each instrument.

In the Arab world today, instruments include an important category whose domain is mostly the urban communities and whose popularity tends to transcend national and geographical barriers. In Egypt, before World War I, these instruments constituted a traditional ensemble known by the name takht, literally “platform.”

The “Takht” ensemble, comprising Oud, Qanun, Nay, Kamanga, Riqq and Kamanjah, plays pure classical music, often referred to as “Tarab”, or enchantment. Music in this category is either purely instrumental, or encompasses the art song. It is a small traditional ensemble of acoustic instruments of complementary timbres, each of which enriches the monophonic texture of the composed music with their own idiosyncratic trills, runs, and slides.

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Flamenco Arabe by Hossam Ramzy & Rafa El Tachuela

October 20, 2008

“An interesting fusion between Arabic music and flamenco. Some of the pieces are most straightforward flamenco with some additional Egyptian percussion, thanks to Hossam Ramzy. In other parts, it reverts to a straightforward Egyptian dance rhythm with some careful Spanish guitar in the background. It’s when the two mesh that the sound is something worth hearing. Despite the relative obscurity of Rafa Tachuela (actually a German flamenco artist, hence the obscurity), the skill is certainly present to power the music forward. There is some able help from Said Kamal and Mohamed Naiem, providing the Egyptian sounds beyond Ramzy’s percussion, and in the end, some help from the Sabri brothers in the addition of a touch of Indian music, as the artists attempt to explore the roots of flamenco through Egyptian music and the roots of Egyptian music through its Indian forebearers. Given that the rise of flamenco came after the Iberian peninsula had been taken over by the Moors, the links between North African music and flamenco are somewhat expected. When the two forms are brought back together to play in tandem, though, something more than the sum of its parts emerges. An excellent addition to the collection of any world music fusionist. ” ~Adam Greenberg, All Music Guide

Personnel: Rafa El Tachuela (flamenco guitar and oud), Hossam Ramzy (Egyptian and world percussion), Saied Kamal on Egyptian violin, Mohammed Naiem on Nay and kawala flutes, Maged Serour on qanun, Ossama El Hendy on keyboards, Ghoulam Sarwar Sabri on Indian tabla, Ismail Sabri on sarangi, Featuring Danny Thompson and Duddley Phillips on Double Bass.

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Malak by Dhafer Youssef

October 20, 2008

Tunesian-born Dhafer Youssef started singing in the Islamic tradition at age 5. His music is rooted in the Sufi tradition and other streams of mystical sounds but has always been wide open to other musical cultures including jazz. With his deeply affecting vocal style, a variable approach on the oud (the Arabic lute) and complex Arab-colored compositions, Dhafer Youssef is among today’s shooting stars in this crossover field.
His 1999 release Malak was an immediate success that cast its spell even over the critics (Stereoplay: CD of the month, Fono Forum: 5 stars). Swiss Peter Rüedi wrote: “In all registers, especially the high ones, this man is incredible. His expressivity blows away all possible reservations… He is a composer of distinction and great breadth of expression ranging from clinking dissonances to real hit tunes – simple but not kitschy, lyrical, expressive, intense and thoughtful.” – from Youssef’s website

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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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Midnight Sun by Hossein Behroozi Nia & Pejman Hadadi

October 20, 2008

Behroozinia is a master of the Persian oud or barbat, and he is accompanied on this recording by Pejman Hadadi on tombak. The music is improvisational and is based on the traditional Persian dastgah concept, which falls somewhere between the Indian raga and Arabic maqam.

Born in Tehran, Iran in 1962, Hossein Behroozinia studied tar with Vohdaney, barbat with Mansur Nariman, and radif with M. R. Lotfi. After studying at the Conservatory of Persian Music, he became the Musical Director of Ensemble Khaleghi and Director of Musical Education at the Center for the Preservation of Persian Music. Behroozinia is the greatest living barbat player from Iran. He is also noted for his brilliant compositions and powerful improvisations on this ancient lute, which is the predecessor of the ud, and various European lutes. He was the Music Director of the National Radio and Television Orchestra of Tehran and has made many recordings with a great variety of ensembles as well as his solo works Barbat, Kohestan and Yadestan. Concert engagements have taken him all over the world, from North America, Europe to Asia and Southeast Asia, including the Sacred Music Festival in Fez, Morocco, collaborating and performing with various traditional music ensembles including Aref, Mowlana, and Dastan. Currently he is actively teaching and giving concerts all over the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his family.

Pejman Hadadi was born in Tehran in 1969.The recipient of the 2001-2002 Durfee Foundation Master Musician Award, Pejman Hadadi began playing tombak at the age of ten under the masters of the instrument Asadollah Hejazi and Ostad Bahman Rajabi. In 1990, upon immigration to the United States, Hadadi began his professional career, performing and recording with ensembles of Persian classical music as well as Indian, Turkish and American musicians.

In 1995, Hadadi joined Dastan Ensemble, one of today’s leading “most-forward looking Persian music ensembles” (LA Weekly). With Dastan, he has performed in many important music festivals world-wide and toured extensively in the US, Europe and Iran. Over the years, Hadadi also became acquainted with some of the masters in Persian music and performed with them, both locally and on tour in the US and Europe. These masters include Hossein Alizadeh, Shahram Nazeri, Ostad Hossein Omoumi, Ostad Parisa, Ali Akbar Moradi and Ardeshir Kamkar.

Hadadi has also been the resident composer and performer with a Persian contemporary dance group, Namah Ensemble and has written compositions for dance. He has been a member of Axiom of Choice, a progressive Persian music ensemble in the US and has collaborated among others with percussionists, Adam Rudolph, Greg Ellis and Brad Dutz. He has recorded with Shujaat Husain Khan and performed with masters of Turkish music including Nejati Celik and Halil Karadoumon and the Arab/Israeli oud player Yair Dalal in the US.

Pejman Hadadi’s modern approach to the traditional tombak lies in his ability to produce melodic patterns within rhythmic structures as well as in his experiments with creating complex variations on the basic sounds of tombak. He also brings to Persian rhythm an Indian percussive sensibility that he has studied over the years. Much of ancient Persian rhythm was later adopted by the Indian musical culture and can be found in their repertoire. Hadadi has a deep interest in uncovering these ancient sources.

Some of Hadadi’s recent performances in major international festivals include the Sfinks Festival in Holland, the Lotus Festival in Indianapolis, US, Musica dei Popoli in Italy, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt in Germany, Bootstrap Creative Emergence and the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles, San Francisco World Music Festival and the Festival De Saint Florent Le Vieil in France. Hadadi has also performed in The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Theatre De La Ville in Paris and more recently, The Getty Museum in LA. Hadadi currently resides in southern California where he teaches Tombak and Daf.

If you are going to any of his concerts make sure that you go twice, once to concentrate and marvel at his ability in inventing new sounds and techniques on Tombak, his ingenuity and creativity, and, once to relax and enjoy his artistic creativity.

Performers:
Hossein Behroozi Nia – barbat
Pejman Hadadi – tonbak

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Kalimba by Joachim Kühn

October 20, 2008

Joachim Kuhn, the German pianist, joins forces with Majid Bekkas, from Morroco, on guembri, vocals, oud, kalimba and percussion, and Ramon Lopez, from Spain, on drums. It’s hard to explain, but the music does not sound as if various styles are combined, they fit rather nicely as a genre by itself, as if it was always meant to sound like this, with the hypnotic, bluesy, jazzy, sometimes even classical piano, playing great music with great rhythmic support and with the wonderful singing of Bekkas to lead us through the music on some of the tracks. Kuhn has of course had many other tries at world jazz, including last year’s “Journey To The Center Of An Egg” with Rabih Abou-Khalil, on which the piano-oud-drums combination was first tried, and the album’s success may have encouraged him to continue on that road. It has in any case lead him to a musical territory of real interest, one in which the music itself dominates, rather than the artificial mixing of genres. The music is joyful, meditative, sad, elegant, … and very serene. A real treat.

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