On his third release Peninsular, pianist and composer Tarek Yamani continues to explore the amalgamation of Arabic music and American jazz. His work is more than a simple juxtaposition of disparate styles as it is built upon shared elements in both genres. On the current album, commissioned for the Abou Dhabi festival, Yamani's focus is folk tradition of the countries on the Arab peninsula that border the Persian Gulf.
The melancholic "Gates of Tears" opens on a somber note with bassist Elie Afif's unaccompanied and introspective lines. The ensemble's undulating refrains form the core of this cinematic piece that is laced with Near Eastern mysticism. Yamani thrills with his agile improvised flourishes that are quite lyrical and showcase his superb virtuosity. The individual expressions seamlessly emerge from and fade back into the main theme.
Equally captivating is the hypnotic "Ayyala Cubana." The haunting chants and heavy percussive rhythms are common to both the Omani traditional dance, the Ayyala, and the Afro Cuban Son. The passion and poetry that fill Yamani's own pianism are also rooted in the dual heritages of the tune.
At various moments throughout the recording guest musicians enhance the core trio's performance with local color. On the title track percussionists Ahmad Abdel Rahim and Wahid Mubarak drive the melody with their galloping beats. Over these infectious vamps, Yamani lets loose flowing, resonant chords. Drummer Khaled Yassine and his thundering kit together with Yamani's chiming notes and Afif's dark reverberations contribute a touch of elegant and delightful dissonance.
Elsewhere on the emotive "Al Qorbi Nasnas" vocalist Adil Abdallah articulates the intriguing lyrics with yearning ardor. Yamani's elegant solo on the quarter tone keyboard reflects the poignancy and wistfulness of this deceptively simple song.
With each project, Yamani continues to highlight the universality the musical language. This emphasis on the cross-cultural nature of creativity, particularly the spontaneous kind, is what makes his forays into fusion successful. Of course, his superlative artistry does not hurt either.
Indisar; Hala Land; Samrias; Qumairah; Al Qorbi Nasnas; Gate of Tears;
Peninsular; Rastprints; Ayyala Cubana.
Tarek Yamani: piano, quarter tone keyboard; Elie Afif: acoustic bass; Khaled
Yassine: drums; Wahid Mubarak: percussion; Ahmad Abdel Rahim: percussion; Adil