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Tarek Yamani: Lisan Al Tarab

Hrayr Attarian By

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Pianist Tarek Yamani's second release Lisãn Al Tarab is a sublime and innovative exploration of the common ground between Jazz and Arabic musical heritage. The title loosely translates as "Language of the Music" although there is no equivalent word to tarab in English. Tarab is the unique concept of music fused with its ecstatic, emotional impact, and has become synonymous with classical Arab song.

Enough of crude attempts at linguistics and on to Yamani's album, which is not a mere superficial, Orientalist pastiche but a true merger of two traditions with which the pianist is deeply familiar. Yamani's unaccompanied take on the wistful paean to his hometown "Beirut Zahra Fi Gheir Awanha," for instance, maintains the standard's signature incandescent nostalgia while infusing it with the dynamism and spontaneity of Harlem stride.

Elsewhere he opens the muwashaha (a folkloric genre akin to the American blues) "Fi Hulal Al Afrah" with a Brubeckian delve into varying time signatures. As the sensual tune unfurls over the bass and drums' hypnotic, rhythmic vamps Yamani launches into a breathtakingly lithe and sprightly solo that maintains a strong melodic sense and is peppered with hints of Andalusian romanticism.

The seamless camaraderie among the members of the trio results in superbly stimulating, harmonic textures. Bassist Petros Klampanis lilting reverberations bring an oud-like lyricism to, among others, the electrifying and soulful "Lamma Bada Yatathanna." Klampanis, together with drummer John Davis' Levantine chimes and driving beats and Yamani's nimble, ardent lines build complex intriguing refrains that sway in mesmerizing patterns.

Yamani, who won the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Composers Competition, contributes the sole original, "New Dabké." The piece evolves with a Tango like, intense passion as piano notes cascade over darkly percolating bass and drum thumps and thrums. Yamani's resonant chords echo hauntingly in a provocative improvisation with a touch of thrilling angularity. The spirited group play emulates the energy and the agility of the dance of the title.

Funded by the Culture Resource's Production Awards Program, this singularly engaging record, with its organic and vibrant atmosphere, ingeniously erases the boundaries between two cultures. Full of poetry, mysticism and intricate yet accessible extemporizations it is a true expression of the universality of music.

Track Listing: Hibbi Zurni; Ah Ya Zein; Lamma Bada Yatathanna; Fi Hulal Al Afrah; Zarani Al Mahboub; Lahn Al Shayalin; New Dabke; Beirut Zahra Fi Gheir Awanha; Chemali Wali.

Personnel: Tarek Yamani: piano; Petros Klampanis: bass; John Davis: drums.

Title: Lisan Al Tarab | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Edict Records

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