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Ayman Fanous / Frances-Marie Uitti: Negoum

Karl Ackermann By

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The very flexible tone systems of the Middle East and Southern Asia have influenced Western music for decades. From John Coltrane to Jimmy Page and George Harrison, the sounds of those regions have often successfully fused with the disciplined beat of the West. Egyptian-born, New York-based guitarist and bouzouki player Ayman Fanous and American-born, Paris-based cellist Frances-Marie Uitti bring East and West together on Negoum but not in a predictable manner.

Fanous appears to be most comfortable in the company of string players. He has recorded twice as a co-leader, with cellist Tomas Ulrich on Labyrinths (Konnex Records, 2007), and with violinist Jason Kao Hwang on Zilzal (Innova, 2013). His performances include duos with William Parker, Mark Feldman, Ned Rothenberg, and Mat Maneri. The experimentalist Uitti is widely regarded as one of the most original cellists in modern music. She has developed an extended two-bow method which converts her cello into a rich polyphonic instrument. Uitti has collaborated with John Cage, Elliott Sharp, Mark Dresser and many others from the top tier of the avant-garde.

At more than sixteen-minutes, the opening track, "Adhara," occupies a quarter of the album's length. With Fanous playing bouzouki and Uitti alternating between one bow and two, the piece conveys the melodic musical improvisation known as Taqsim in the Arabic-speaking world. Uitti adds elements of drone and Western melody to a frequently-shifting soundscape. The duo paints a broad swath across the remaining tracks; Uitti coaxes raw, unnatural sounds from the cello on "Caph"; Fanous augments "Nekkar" with gentle flamenco passages. "Megrez," the other extended piece on Negoum, combines East/West folk rhythms, Western classical and improvisation in a stunning union of influences.

Fanous writes in his liner notes that he and Uitti met for the first time—in concert—in 2011. The pair improvised for just a few minutes, met in the studio the following day and produced this outstanding music. It isn't jazz or any other genre, but there are rudiments of many musical traditions within. Negoum is a fascinating album from two master composer-musicians.

Track Listing

Adhara; Alnilam; Caph; Alnitac; Megrez; Alioth; Zaurac; Rasalased; Nekkar.

Personnel

Ayman Fanous: guitar; Frances-Marie Uitti: cello.

Album information

Title: Negoum | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Mode Records

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