Welcome to the Arabic Jazz blog!

Ahlan wa sahlan!

Welcome to my blog. I've created this blog to share information and news about music that mixes elements of jazz and Arabic music. I'll also share scores and transcriptions etc. for musicians.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rima Khcheich -videos

I had been hoping that Rima Khcheich and Yuri Honing would record a sequel to Orient Express, but in the meantime, there are some nice YouTubes of more Arabic jazz goodness:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band

From www.passionate-music.com:
Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Salah Ragab was a central figure in the history of jazz in Egypt. A sometime collaborator with Sun Ra, Ragab founded the Cairo Jazz Band in 1968, the same year that he became the head of the Egyptian Military Music Department. The Cairo Jazz Band was Egypt's first big band, mixing American jazz with North African music, combining jazz instrumentation and musical style with indigenous melodies and instruments . . .more

This is a pretty amazing record, definitely has some late '60s free/pyschedelic vibe to it. More of a jazz record in a lot of ways (don't expect much oud), though of course the Arabic roots are clear. In some ways it makes me think of the Latin-jazz developments in the 50s and 60s with musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente.
Arabic jazz seems to be taking longer to catch on . . .

It draws frequent comparisons to the work of Sun Ra, with whom Ragab collaborated (see below). While the influence is undeniable, Ragab has an engaging voice of his own and I suspect he was a fan of Duke Ellington as well. I love these unexpected records from the past that point to a time when record companies were more daring and were obviously not being run by the accounting department.

This is another one for the Sun Ra fans:

Ahmed Abdul-Malik Sheet Music

Here are some transcriptions of the tunes from Ahmed Abdul-Malik's 1958 record Jazz Sahara. My impression is that Abdul-Malik didn't really "write" these tunes, but arranged them from themes that he had heard in traditional Arabic pieces.
The charts are "lead sheet" style, with a simple version of the melody. Ornaments and rhythmic variations are open to interpretation.

The record featured a mix of musicians from the NY middle-eastern "cabaret" scene, with Naim Karacand (violin), Jack Ghanaim (qanun), and Mike Hamway (percussion) joined by hard-hitting jazz musicians Johnny Griffin (saxophone) and Al Harewood (drum set). I've mentioned this record before, as the first recorded meeting of jazz and Arabic music, it remains a sentimental favorite despite some flaws (Although a world-class bassist, Abdul-Malik is not a, shall we say, subtle oud player, and the post-recording edits are laughably inept).

Available at Amazon (click image):

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Joseph Tawadros

Joseph Tawadros is a stellar young oud player. He was born in Egypt and grew up in Australia.
He has a number of recordings, but this is his first foray into Arabic jazz. The Hour of Separation, a recent release, has an all-star lineup of great jazz musicians.

Joeseph Tawadros The Hour of Separation

Joseph Tawadros, oud
John Abercrombie, guitar
John Patitucci, bass
Jack DeJohnette, drums
James Tawadros, percussion

Chaouki Smahi

Chaouki Smahi was born 1963 in Morocco and brought up in Algeria. He now lives in Switzerland. He is an accomplished oud player and violinist and percussionist. He has a few recordings, most of which involve jazz musicians.
Sadaka is my favorite of his recordings. Straightforward arrangements and recording, with the focus on oud, saxophone and percussion. Smahi plays in a fairly traditional Arabic style, but Mariano tastefully incorporates jazz ideas on the saxophone.

Charlie Mariano and Chaouki Smahi -Sadaka
Chaouki Smahi: oud, violin, vocals, darbouka
Charlie Mariano: alto saxophone

He is on another Charlie Mariano record called Nassim which is somewhat less succesful but still has some nice moments. It's definitely more of a deliberate "Arabic-Jazz" fusion, but overreaches at times.

It doesn't seem to be available in the U.S., but you might be able to find a download somewhere . . .

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rima Khcheich

Rima Khcheich is a talented singer from Lebanon. Here she teams up with stellar Dutch jazz saxophonist Yuri Honing and his trio in a live performance. Highly recommended: their Arabic version of Bjork's "Isobel" is alone worth the price of the cd. They perform versions of several classic Arabic songs ("Emta Hata'araf", "La Enta Habibi", "Ma Dam Tihib Betenkour lieh") which are re-arranged to include compelling jazz improvisations.

Yuri Honing - tenor saxophone
Tony Overwater - double bass
Joost Lijbaart - drums
Rima Khcheich- vocals
Basem Havar - djose
Latif Al-Obaidy - ud, darbuka, riqq

Anouar Brahem Sheet Music

Here are some transcriptions I have made of Anouar Brahem's music. Brahem is well-known as one of the foremost Arabic jazz oud players and composers. His work (especially his more recent recordings) tend to be meditative in tone, but he can still surprise with fiery intensity on occasion.

Note: These transcriptions are my own work, which I am providing for educational purposes only. If anyone objects to their inclusion, please notify me and they will be removed immediately.

Halfouine, from Astrakan Café (also appears on Le Voyage De Sahar).

Lecon du Oud, from The Silences of the Palace.

Qurb, from Thimar. Note that there are some rhythmic anomalies on the recording, this is my best guess as to Brahem's intent. This was originally performed with the outstanding jazz musicians Dave Holland (bass) and John Surman (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone).

Parfum de Gitane, from Astrakan Café (also appears on Barzakh).

Rabih Abou-Khalil, part 2

A couple of other nice recordings by Abou-Khalil:

Yara (1998):
very nice recording with strings.
Originally came about as music for a film of the same title.

Dominique Pifarely (violin), Vincent Courtois (cello), Nabil Khaiat (percussion)

Journey to the Centre of an Egg (2005):
One of Abou-Khalil's most modern-sounding records. Joachim Kühn's piano playing is inventive and dynamic, and challenges Abou-Khalil to stray a little farther from Arabic sounds into jazz territory.

Joachim Kühn (piano, alto saxophone), Jarrod Cagwin (drums, percussion),
Wolfgang Reisinger (additional percussion)

Anouar Brahem, part 2

Astrakan Café - 2000

Anouar Brahem : oud
Barbaros Erköse : clarinet
Lassad Hosni : bendir, darbouka

Le Pas du Chat Noir - 2002

A very subdued album that rewards repeated listening. Brahem's oud playing does not dominate, but blends with the piano and accordion, with echoes of Bill Evans, Philip Glass, Schubert and Chopin.

Anouar Brahem : oud
François Couturier : piano
Jean Louis Matinier : accordion

Voyage du Sahar - 2006

Very similar album to Le Pas du Chat Noir

Anouar Brahem : oud
François Couturier : piano
Jean Louis Matinier : accordion

The Astounding Eyes Of Rita - 2009
Brahem returns here to a more energetic style, with playing and compositions reminiscent of Astrakan Café and Thimar.

Anouar Brahem : oud
Klaus Gesing : bass clarinet
Björn Meyer : bass
Khaled Yassine : darbouka, bendir

Madar - 1994
This is Garbarek's record, and it contains some compelling music. However, Garbarek has an unusual and strident tone of the saxophone, which is not everyone's cup of tea.

Jan Garbarek : tenor and soprano saxophones
Anouar Brahem : oud
Ustad Shaukat Hussain : tabla

There are also some bootlegs of Anouar Brahem concerts floating around teh internets. I don't want to link to them directly, but the concerts are:

Live In Salvator Kirche Church at Duisburg, Germany
Live at Teatro Sociale, Bellinzona, Switzerland, 1998 (with John Surman and Dave Holland)
Zürich International Jazz Festival 1993 (with Jan Garbarek and Shaukat Hussain)

Issa Hassan

Issa Hassan is a Kurdish musician who primarily plays buzuq. He has lived in Lebanon and currently lives in Paris. He has a couple of albums with jazz influences:

Issa Hassan, buzuq and composition
Elie Maalouf, piano and composition
Adel Shams-el-Din, percussion
with Haroun Teboul, Emek Evci.

Tareq Abboushi

Abboushi has been playing the buzuq starting at the National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah, Palestine, and continuing in New York City. He also is an accomplished jazz pianist, having studied at William Paterson University. His band Shusmo has a self-titled release that is well worth getting, with a great mix of original tunes and improvisations. Clarinetist Lefteris Bournias is a fiery complement to the more introspective musings of Abboushi's buzuq.

Tareq Abboushi - Buzuq, percussion, composition
Lefteris Bournias - Clarinet
Héctor Morales - Congas, Cajón
Zafer Tawil - Riq, Durbakkeh, Cymbals
Dave Phillips- Bass

Amir ElSaffar

Iraqi-American trumpeter, santour player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar grew up in River Forest, IL, a suburb west of Chicago; he was first exposed to jazz recordings by his father, and his mother taught him to sing and play American folk songs on ukulele and guitar when he was nine. He eventually found his calling with the trumpet
After moving to New York in 2000, he became more involved with studying the Arab and specifically Iraqi maqam. In 2002, ElSaffar immersed himself in the music of his father's ancestral past, the Iraqi maqam. He traveled to Iraq, throughout the Middle East and to Europe pursuing masters who could impart to him this centuries-old oral tradition. He learned to play the santour (Iraqi hammered dulcimer) and to sing, and now leads Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format. He has also uses techniques for the trumpet that enable microtones and ornaments that are characteristic to Arabic music but are not typically heard on a trumpet.

The record Two Rivers is ElSaffar's clearest mixing of jazz and Arabic music.

Amir ElSaffar: trumpet, voice, santoor
Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto sax
Zafer Tawil: violin, oud, dumbek
Tareq Abboushi: buzuq, frame drums
Carlo Rosa: bass
Nasheet Waits: drums.

Simon Shaheen

A Palestinian, born in the village of Tarshiha in the Galilee, Shaheen's childhood was steeped in music. His father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a professor of music and a master 'oud player. Simon began playing the oud at the age of five and the violin shortly thereafter.

Most of Shaheen's recorded output is on the more traditional side. His jazziest disc, Blue Flame is somewhat reminiscent of the music of John McLaughlin or Paco DeLucia. Shaheen regularly makes extensive use of microtonal maqamat such as Rast, Sikah and Bayati.

All of his recordings are very highly recommended.

Shameless plug: I'm playing guitar on this one in Ramallah!

Anouar Brahem

All of Brahem's available releases are on ECM. He has a simpler, more contemplative style than most oud players, and has on occasion shown his more traditional side. He rarely plays microtonal maqamat.

Selected discography:

Barzakh - 1991

With spare instumentation, much of the album is quite understated, though not without flights of virtuosity.

Anouar Brahem : oud
Béchir Selmi : violin
Lassad Hosni : percussion

Conte de l'incroyable amour - 1992
One of Brahem's more traditional-sounding records, there is a lot of nice playing here by everyone, though the compositions do not stand out as Brahem's best.

Anouar Brahem : oud
Barbaros Erköse : clarinet
Kudsi Erguner : nai
Lassad Hosni : bendir,darbouka

Khomsa - 1995

Featuring a larger ensemble and more jazz-influenced writing, Khomsa was rated 4 stars by Downbeat

Anouar Brahem : oud
Richard Gálliano : accordion
François Couturier : piano, synthesizer
Jean Marc Larché : soprano saxophone
Béchir Selmi : violin
Palle Danielsson : double-bass
Jon Christensen : drums

Thimar - 1998

This is one of my favorite albums. Haunting sounds, excellent compositions and beautiful playing by all. 4 stars from DownBeat.

Anouar Brahem : oud
John Surman : bass clarinet and soprano saxophone
Dave Holland : double-bass

Rabih Abou-Khalil

Lebanese oud player, one of the first to work extensively with jazz musicians. A prolific composer, Abou-Khalil is known for his rhythmically intricate compositions that (unlike traditional Arabic music) frequently change meter in a free-flowing way, often several times within a phrase or section. He does not use any of the microtonal maqamat (modes, sing. maqam in his music. He generally performs with Western musicians, most of whom have jazz backgrounds. He occasionally works with Eastern musicians, such as on Roots & Sprouts and Tarab.

Selected discography:

Bukra (1988): with Sonny Fortune (alto sax), Glen Moore (bass), Glen Velez & Ramesh Shotham (percussion)

Roots & Sprouts (1990): Fairly traditional middle-eastern instrumentation:
Selim Kusur (nay), Yassin El-Achek (violin), Glen Moore (bass), Glen Velez (frame drums), Mohammad Al-Sous (darabukka)

Tarab (1992):
Selim Kusur (nay), Glen Moore (bass), Nabil Khaiat & Ramesh Shotham (percussion)

Blue Camel (1992): One of Abou-Khalil's jazziest records.
Charlie Mariano (alto sax), Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn), Steve Swallow (bass)
Milton Cardona, Nabil Khaiat & Ramesh Shotham (percussion)

Ahmed Abdul Malik

Jazz Sahara (1958)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik (oud, bass); Jack Ghanaim (qanun); Naim Karacand (violin); Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone); Al Harewood (drums), Mike Hamway, percussion

East Meets West (1958)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass, oud); Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Benny Golson and Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophones); Ahmed Yetman (qanun); Naim Karacand (violin); Bilal Abdurrahman, Mike Hamway (Darabeka, daf).

The earliest attempt at jazz fusion with middle eastern music. Basically they play some dawalib (sing., doulab: short instrumental piece often used as an introduction) and improvise. Abdul Malik was a well-known jazz bass player of Sudanese descent, best known for his work with Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Both albums feature his Monk bandmate Johnny Griffin on saxophone along with various middle-eastern nightclub musicians and jazz musicians such as Benny Golson, and Lee Morgan.
Jazz Sahara is a strong album, while East Meets West is a little uneven (though with some excellent performances). In the liner notes to Jazz Sahara, Abdul-Malik pointedly avoids referring to the music as "Arabic", and suggest "Mid-Eastern" is more accurate because of the varied traditions involved. The oud playing is somewhat rudimentary, but the overall effect is compelling.

Welcome to the Arabic Jazz blog!

Ahlan wa sahlan!

Welcome to my blog. I've created this blog to share information and news about music that mixes elements of jazz and Arabic music. I'll also share scores and transcriptions etc. for musicians.