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The oud is the principal instrument in Middle Eastern music: it's an ancient, fretless, short-necked lute with five pairs of strings and a bass string. On Evolution, his third CD as leader, Amos Hoffman plays the oud he made himself, and offers a fascinating combination of Middle Eastern music and jazz.
The Tel Aviv-based Hoffman wrote all the tunes here, providing a mix of composed and improvised music with hypnotic, sensuous, and insistent rhythms. Aside from Hoffman's soulful oud, the CD features his guitar, the warm alto flute of Ilan Salem, the intricate percussion of Ilan Katchka, strong piano, vocals, and upright bass of Avishai Cohen, who is also one of the co-founders of Razdaz Recordz, the label that released Evolution. Hoffman has played in Cohen's band for more than twenty years, and their relaxed interplay helps to warm this recording.
Only two of the tracks are slow, and one of thesethe sinuous "Exploration"has some surprising moments, including a repeating Latin groove and an electric guitar solo with a distinctly modern feel. Other highlights include the soulful "I Met You, " which seems destined for wide radio play on the more adventurous stations, the timeless oud showcase of "Takasin Bayati, " and the jazz ballad called "Miss T." But although the musicians' freedom and mutual inspiration are clearly audible, this is not your usual jazz record: instead, it's an exciting, exotic journey that evokes the swirl of sand and silk.
Track Listing: Enayim; Exploration; Silence; Hamsa; Takasin Bayati; I Met You; The Wheel; The Journey; Miss T; Sweet Eden.
Personnel: Amos Hoffman: oud, guitar, production; Avisahai Cohen: bass, piano, vocals;
Ilan Katchka: percussion; Ilan Salem: alto flute.