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Rami Atassi: Dancing Together

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Rami Atassi: Dancing Together
The Chicago-based guitarist Rami Atassi went on a south American journey with his wife to explore Mexico and Colombia. Amid the daily background music, he heard different styles and rhythmic foundations than those he was used to and took percussion lessons locally. All this later began seeping into his solo work.

A Syrian-American, Atassi founded the Cosmic Dance Band in 2022, blending sounds of the Middle East with jazz harmony and modern sonics. This group and its combined spirit informs the heart of his latest album, Dancing Together, a procession of desert-baked rhythms and intoxicating hooks, which marks Atassi's arrival as a major player. That indefinable essence we call spiritual jazz is present, but Dancing Together also offers plenty to get steamed up about. Names that spring to mind include Bill MacKay, Greg Ward, Tcheser Holmes, Manu Dibango, Santana and Mdou Moctar.

This is a distinctly ego-free record, where Atassi sets the basic agenda for his ensemble to create upon. And create they do, for despite the clear blocks of composition, Atassi's group expands on his themes at will. "Dancing Together" offers repeated, but still exhilarating, flamenco-tinged riffs and a distant warble of harmonica. Atassi's percussive finger flicks here are like the meatier strums of Paco Peña. "Yuma Soul" has slide guitars and saxophones gliding in mystic harmony, the chant-like melody always enticing. Despite an American sway, this has the devotional magic of a qawwali tune.

"Warm Your Heart" keeps a steady simmer of beats, like Tony Allen at the kit, as saxophones duet in catchy rapid runs and Atassi responds in kind. A funky rumble, "Salty Sea" then mixes the cool verve of Steely Dan with the tuneful fluidity of Idris Ackamoor. "Garden Song" is a sweaty and pounding blues piece, where Atassi uses open tunings for his graveyard mass of acoustic chords. Ryan Suzuka's bruising harmonica only adds to the eerie trip.

A wonderful warp on West African highlife is given avant frissons on "Great Plains," while "San Cristobal" finds Atassi riding a wave of longing and loneliness, stroking tremolo surfer chords into the sunset. The album closes with "Nasheed," a fuzz-toned guitar wigout over strutting bass lines and zingy percussion, all slamming together. Yet out of this chaos and panic comes a sense of ecstasy and trance.

Back in 2021, Atassi explained that being a new parent had pumped him up creatively. A self-confessed studio rat, he balances family and work commitments with relish. Dancing Together shows what a very good place he is currently in, on both fronts.

Track Listing

Dancing Together; Yuma Soul; Warm Your Heart; Salty Sea; Garden Song; Great Plains; San Cristobal; Nasheed.

Personnel

Rami Atassi
guitar
Luc Mosley
saxophone
Eric Novak
saxophone, tenor
Joie Lacine
percussion
Ryan Suzuka
harmonica

Album information

Title: Dancing Together | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Ropeadope


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