4

Gordon Grdina's Haram: Her Eyes Illuminate

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Vancouver-based oudist/guitarist Gordon Grdina has been bending genres and creating East-meets-West contexts for his instruments for quite some time. He put his own spin on modern jazz with Box Cutter, melded outré twentieth century chamber ideals with Arabian themes with the East Van Trio and created a Persian/Arabian/Indian hybrid with Sangha. Now, Grdina turns his attention to folk themes and popular music crafted by Iranian and Egyptian artists over the past century with this exciting dectet.

Haram, which means "forbidden by Islamic law," fuses left-of-center mannerisms with hardcore jazz soloing and vocals; then, it's all layered atop a bed of percussive, Middle Eastern musical ideals. This music may indeed lack acceptance in Islamic circles, but there's nothing terribly sacrilegious on the surface. Grdina continues his long term task of promoting cross-pollination between musical cultures in his own work and he does a splendid job with his the arrangements, choice of personnel and oud playing.

The possibilities seem almost endless with a mixture of oud, trumpet, tenor saxophone, clarinet, violin and rhythm at hand. Multi-horn melodies leap forth with a semi-joyous/semi-sorrowful sound and the mixture of electric bass and drum set with the darbuka and tambourine-like riq creates a sense of rhythmic drama down below. The music balances ensemble interplay with individual space and gives everybody a chance to shine at one time or another. Frenzied front line overlapping ("En Shakawt Al Hawa") and two-man tangles ("Tilli Edhakilo") prove exhilarating, but hearing each musician in their own space is what really helps to establish their identities. The lengthy "Alf Leila Wa Leila," which continually shifts from solo spotlights to group play, provides plenty of glimpses into the inner workings of the individuals that make up this group.

Avant Arabic modernism is at the heart of this music, but Klezmer-ish undertones surface on occasion. Grdina may or may not have intended for this to happen, but the historical and geographical connections between the Arab and Hebraic cultures, complex and painful as they may be, can't be easily avoided or negated in music. Francois Houle's clarinet speaks to the Klezmer soul and Emad Armoush's vocals, while wholly connected to the Arabic world, have a slight cantorial ring to them.

Haram works in the margin that exists between boundary-pushing jazz and popular traditions in Arabian music and they do it well. Hopefully, Grdina will keep this outfit together to further explore this territory.

Track Listing: Raqs Al Jamal (Dance Of Beauty); Tilli Edhakilo (Go Out And Laugh Wih Him); Sharpening; En Shakawt Al Hawa (If You Complain About Love); Alf Leila Wa Leila (A Thousand And One Nights); Sama'i Farafhaza; Ana Wa Habibi (Me And My Love); Laktob Aourak Al Chagar (I Will Write To You On The Leaves Of Trees); Che Mali Wali (Because I Am Abandoned); Longa Farahfaza.

Personnel: Gordon Grdina: oud; Chris Kelly: tenor saxophone; JP Carter: trumpet; Francous Houle: clarinet; Jess Zubot: violin, electronics; Tommy Babin: electric bass; Kenton Loewen: drums; Emad Armoush: vocals, nev; Tim Gerwing: darbuka; Liam MacDonald: riq.

Title: Her Eyes Illuminate | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Read more articles
Ejdeha

Ejdeha

Songlines Recordings
2018

buy
Inroads

Inroads

Songlines Recordings
2017

buy
Ghost Lights

Ghost Lights

Songlines Recordings
2017

buy
No Difference

No Difference

Songlines Recordings
2013

buy
Her Eyes Illuminate

Her Eyes Illuminate

Songlines Recordings
2012

buy
 

The Breathing of...

Songlines Recordings
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read This Should Be Fun Album Reviews
This Should Be Fun
By David A. Orthmann
April 20, 2019
Read Transoceanico Album Reviews
Transoceanico
By Patrick Burnette
April 20, 2019
Read Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection Album Reviews
Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 20, 2019
Read Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972 Album Reviews
Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972
By John Kelman
April 19, 2019
Read HUJE 2018 Album Reviews
HUJE 2018
By Jack Bowers
April 19, 2019
Read Farallon Album Reviews
Farallon
By Jerome Wilson
April 19, 2019
Read Burning Meditation Album Reviews
Burning Meditation
By John Sharpe
April 18, 2019