Yitzhak Yedid Oud Bass Piano Trio Between the Lines
Composer and pianist Yitzhak Yedid's new composition is an impressive attempt to weave current and traditional styles and influences into a cohesive contemporary work. In this five part suite, premiered at the Oud Festival in Jerusalem in November 2005 and recorded nine months later, there are references and retentions from a wide spectrum of sources, including Jewish and Christian prayers and benedictions, Arabic folk music, modern Western music and avant-garde jazzall fused through Yedid's optimistic belief that these varied cultures can co-exist peacefully.
This is also the first time that Yedid has composed for the oud. The role that he finds for the instrument is quite different from the one you tend to find on other collaborations between piano and oud, as on German pianist Joachim Kuhn's work on oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil's Journey To The Center Of An Egg (Enja, 2005). Yedid sees the oud as an orchestral, formally disciplined instrument, detached from its folkloristic role, and one that adds a very specific color with its unique scales and meters. Yedid enlisted Palestinian oud player Mikhail Maroun, who is also an accomplished guitarist, for this project. Double bassist Ora Boasson Horev, Yedid's trusty musical partner, beautifully interprets and executes Yedid's challenging and inticate role for the bass.
As always with Yedid's compositions, he offers a map of the almost cinematic images and feelings that inspired him through the composing process, but states clearly that he welcomes other narratives that the listener may imagine for himself. The first movement begins with a short, masterful bass line that quotes from the Jewish morning benedictions, followed by a meditative duet between the oud and piano. When the bass rejoins the oud and the piano, Yedid uses the piano strings to echo the oud and bass strings and achieves a mysterious timbral quality. The conclusion of this movement borrows a theme from Yedid's earlier composition, Myth Of The Cave (Between The Lines, 2003) and ends with a short blessing from the benediction of the priests, that suggests a similar image to the opening one. All these complex textures of colors and sounds are performed beautifully by the trio.
The second movement is tempestuous and seemingly chaotic. It is inspired by the Christian myth of the rebellion of the Angel Hillel Ben Shahar against god, and its inevitable casting from heaven to hell. The third movement imagines a walk in the Old City of Jerusalem through different eras, where the sounds of the Sabbath prayers mingle with the sounds of Palestinian celebrations and the bells of the churches. It even offers a heartfelt tribute to the legendary Egyptian singer Om Koulthoum, where Maroun's ornamental playing takes the lead.
The fourth movement is a minimalist piece, with a gentle and subtle interplay between the players, and moves between such diverse images as a mystical Kabbalist prayer and ritual belly dances. One of the climaxes is when Yedid and Boasson Horev comment on Maroun's solo improvisation on a scale of a Middle-Eastern song, where both enrich Moaroun's theme with a myriad of nuances, transforming the simple and light theme into dissonant and dark heights. The fifth movement is an intense and fast piece that aims to portray "the fusing of opposites and different streams in the Israeli cultural melting pot," through quotes from the benedictions of the priests, blessing from a traditional Jewish wedding and an Israeli folk song.
The concept is clearly ambitiousand sometimes too idyllic in the context of the everyday reality of Israel and Jerusalembut Yedid succeeds in offering an expressive, coherent vision of his art that calls for repeated listening.
Track listing: First Movement; Second Movement; Third Movement; Fourth Movement; Fifth movement
Personnel: Mikhail Moroun: oud; Ora Boasson Horev: double bass; Yitzhak Yedid: piano.