Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

475

Dhafer Youssef: Abu Nawas Rhapsody

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
After two albums exploring the nexus of ages-old Middle Eastern harmony and modernistic electronics, Tunisian-born oudist/vocalist Dhafer Youssef turns to a stripped-down, completely acoustic environs for Abu Nawas Rhapsody. Despite leaving Oslo behind—where, on Digital Prophecy (Enja, 2003) and Divine Shadows (Jazzland, 2006), he collaborated with some of Norway's more intrepid musicians including guitarist Eivind Aarset, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and trumpeter Arve Henriksen—the Vienna-based Youssef remains associated with the Norwegian scene through his release of the disc on Wesseltoft's Jazzland label. It's an association that speaks volumes about the label's ongoing commitment to the artists in whom it believes, and a reciprocal loyalty by the truly inimitable Youssef.



Youssef isn't the only oudist making vital new music that incorporates the millennial music of his cultural upbringing with broader stylistic interests. Lebanese-born Rabih Abou-Khalil has, since the early 1990s, been finding a meeting place with jazz-centric improvisation, while fellow Tunisian Anouar Brahem has traveled the road from authentic traditionalism to spare, chamber-informed classicism. Youssef, however, also possesses a voice that can scream with existential pain or soar in joyous bliss; as much a component of his music as his equally fine instrumental skills. Here, however, Youssef's international quartet not only navigates the compositional complexities of his music, but improvises with the kind of reckless abandon that supports the premise of the oudist's three-part "Wine Ode Suite"—spread across the disc, Youssef's "beautiful meditation on the 'wine' of divine bliss."



Youssef's music—often featuring serpentine lines, winding their way across constantly shifting bar lines—has always been transcendent. But here, with a trio of musicians encouraging his music to burn with a passion far surpassing previous efforts, the oudist more firmly reveres the jazz tradition even, as he finds new ways to stretch its very definition. Beginning gently, with a hint of reference to early ECM albums by guitarist John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner, "Les Ondes Orientales" slowly builds in intensity, leading to a solo section for Armenian-born pianist Tigran Hamasyan that, following Youssef's ascendant vocals, turns to modal territory—the pianist's inside/outside playing creating some fierce tension and release, bolstered by Canadian bassist Chris Jennings and American drummer Mark Giuliana, who lights a serious fire underneath the group.



Elsewhere, on "Profane 'The Wine Ode Suite,'" Youssef fashions a haunting place where classical composer Erik Satie's dark lyricism and the minor-keyed plaintiveness of his own culture can come together. Backed only by Hamasyan, it's four minutes of contemplative spirituality, juxtaposing the fierier nature of Youssef's dervish-like "Odd Elegy," whose odd-metered funk provides grist for powerful solos from Hamasyan and, in particular, Giuliana.



Abu Nwas Rhapsody paints, perhaps, the broadest picture of Youssef of any single album to date, with its focus on a consistent lineup and the resultant chemistry. Without dismissing the inestimable strengths of Youssef's playing, singing and composing, Abu Nawas Rhapsody's greatest energy and strength comes from an ideal trio of collaborators, who turn it into his hottest session to date.


Track Listing: Sacré "The Wind Ode Suite"; Les Ondes Orientales; Khamsa "The Khamriyyat of Abu Nawas"; Interl'Oud; Odd Elegy; Ya Hobb "In the Name of Love"; Shaouk; Shatha; Mudamatan "The Wine Ode Suite"; Hayastan Dance; Sura; Profane "The Wine Ode Suite."

Personnel: Dhafer Youssef: oud, vocals, compositions; Tigran Hamasyan: piano; Chris Jennings: acoustic bass; Mark Giuliana: drums

Title: Abu Nawas Rhapsody | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Jazzland Recordings


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Lattice" CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Insufficient Funs" CD/LP/Track Review Insufficient Funs
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "The Roc" CD/LP/Track Review The Roc
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "So Nice!" CD/LP/Track Review So Nice!
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 30, 2017
Read "Reflections" CD/LP/Track Review Reflections
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: March 11, 2017
Read "Setembro" CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!