Category Archives: Middle East

Happy Anniversary Part 6: Jazz and Related Sounds


And so we now come to a tri-partite celebration of jazz sounds as part of the ongoing commemoration of the Washerman’s Dog achieving the milestone of 700 posts (way back a couple of months ago). Thank you again to all visitors, regulars and encouragers along the way, its been a blast and I don’t’ see any reason to cease and desist any time soon.


Volume one is entitled Blue Vindaloo. Straight ahead jazz mixed with a fair number of Asian and Asian-inspired tracks by jazz artists from Afghanistan to Japan. Check out the Afghan Jazz Unit’s tremendous Spinboldak Saxophony.

Title track from the Pakistani-American uber guitarist Rez Abbasi.


Volume two is titled Afro Jazz and indeed here you will find much jazz from the Continent, as well as soukous, pop and other African delights.  Highlights this time are from Angola!  Title track comes via the mighty Madilu of DRC.


Volume three, Blow Baby, Blow is dedicated to outstanding brass, woodwind and brass band jazz. Sax, trumpet, tuba and trombone. Greats and unknowns.  Hope you enjoy.

blue vindaloo

Track Listing (Vol. 1):

01 Time Is Right Dr. L Subramaniam]

02 Beauty Of The Flower [Christoph Stiefel and Lissette Spinnler]

03 Elveen [Wynton Marsalis]

04 Spinboldak Saxophony [Afghan Jazz Unit]

05 Ranglypso [Ernest Ranglin]

06 Painted Paradise [Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media]

07 Fat Mouth [Weldon Irvine]

08 Yes, Sir That’s My Baby [Nat King Cole]

09 Abbaji (For Alla Rakha) [John McLaughlin]

10 Hub-Tones [Freddie Hubbard]

11 Eastern Dawn [Amancio D’Souza]

12 Sueño de Amor (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao] [Bonus Track] Generoso Jimenez]

13 Fried Pies (Take 1) [Wes Montgomery]

14 Tempo De Amor [Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes]

15 What a Little Moonlight Can Do [Billie Holiday]

16 Harlem On Saturday Night [Lil Hardin Armstrong and Her Orchestra]

17 Benson’s Rider [George Benson]

18 The Best Is Yet To Come [Mr. President]

19 Nuit sur les Champs-Elysees(1) [Miles Davis]

20 Awaara Hoon [Sunny Jain Collective]

21 Sina Nari [Hüsnü Şenlendirici]

22 Tanzania [Sadao Watanabe]

23 Summertime [Ahmed Abdul Malik]

24 Garuda [Raga Bop Trio]

25 The Look Of Love [Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66]

26 Quaze Caindo [Ricardo Herz Trio]

27 The Lewinsky March. [Rabih Abou-Khalil]

28 Ma’am A’rif Leh (Gingele) [Salma]

29 Blu Vindaloo [Rez Abbasi]

30 Raga Piloo [Joe Harriot & John Mayer]


beau souvenir

Track Listing (Vol. 2)

01 Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive [Hugh Masakela]

02 Margret Odero [D.O. Misiani & Shirati Jazz]

03 Muasi Oweli Bela [bolero] [Vicky et l’OK Jazz]

04 Bolingo Ekomisi Ngai Liboma [L’orchestre Zembe Zembe]

05 Kulekule [Konono No.1 De Mingiedi]

06 La Bycicletta [Keletigui et Ses Tambourines]

07 Avante Juventude [Os Anjos]

08 Whiskey et Coca-Cola [Amadou Balake]

09 Black Egypt -Intro [Bukky Leo and Black Egypt]

10 Soweto Blues [Mariam Makeba]

11 Awa Awa [Wes]

12 Koki (Hot Koki) [Andre Marie Tala]

13 Tweta [Mombasa Party and Zuhura Swaleh]

14 Injuria [Jose ‘Zeca’ Neves]

15 Hymn for the War Orphans [Zimology]

16 Na boyi danbinzi [Orchestre Mando Negro]

17 Onyame [Ashanti Afrika Jah]

18 Sogodounou [Nahawa Doumbia]

19 1er Gaou (Ivory Coast) [Magic System]

20 Kyrie eleison [Orcestre Hi Fives]

21 Ting’ Badi Malo [Gidigidi Majimaji]

22 Din Ya Sugri [Christy Azuma & Uppers International]

23 Gidelam [Baaba Maal]

24 Tollon Tollon [Afro National]

25 Ichibanda [Oliya Band]

26 Revolution [Sonny Okosun]

27 Mosquito [Flaming Souls]

28 Beau Souvenir [Madilu System]

29 Black Woman Experience [Geraldo Pino]

30 Despedida [Dimba Diangola]


Blow Baby Blow

Track Listing: (Vol. 3)

01 Blue Light [Ben Webster]

02 Black Man’s Cry [Fela Kuti with Afrika 70 and Ginger Baker]

03 Zomaye [Gigi]

04 Minnie the Moocher [Big Bad Voodoo Daddy]

05 Skalloween [Skatalites]

06 From Boogie to Funk part 1_ The Blues [Bill Coleman]

07 Don’t Take Your Love From Me [Frank Rosolino Quintet]

08 See-F [Ceasar Frazier]

09 Instant Groove [King Curtis]

10 Time Is Running Out Fast [James Brown]

11 Satan’s Blues [Don Bryon]

12 i want a little girl [Big Joe Turner]

13 John McLaughlin [Miles Davis]

14 Misterioso [Sonny Rollins]

15 Sida Gangbe Brass Band]

16 The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro) [Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass]

17 Balkan Reggae [Mahala Rai Banda]

18 Qonqoza [Dudu Phukwana]

19 Got No Money [Dusko Gojkovic]

20 Crazy Mixed Up World [Little Walter]

21 Ad Lib Blues [Lester Young]

22 Need You (right now) [Trumpet Thing]

23 Kuenda Namwendo [The Umtali Chipisa Band]

24 Blues for Harvey [Johnny Griffin]

25 Celestial Bliss [Rahsaan Roland Kirk]

26 Frantic Activity [Rhythm Funk Masters]

27 Struttin’ With Some Barbecue [Louis Armstrong]

28 Asaw Fofor [Melody Aces]

29 African Battle Manu Dibango]

30 How Deep Is the Ocean [John Coltrane]


Oud of this World: Fawzy Al-Aiedi


Long term readers of this blog will know how much I love the sound of the oud (Arabian lute).  Whenever, I need that particular tonic for a tired mind and body, there is nothing quite so calming as a lute plucked, slowly and with intent.


Fawzy Al Aiedy

Fawzy Al Aiedy

Fawzy Al-Aiedi (also spelled, Al Yedi) is a Iraqi oud player from the southern port city of Basra. Educated in Baghdad and in Europe he has recorded and performed around the world.  This album of solo oud pieces, accompanied on several tracks by his own singing is a beauty.  Have found great pleasure in it over the years. And I hope you do too.

Oud Aljazira

Track Listing:

01 Nahawend

02 Touli

03 Oud Aljazira

04 Shamoussa

05 Rast

06 Hid Jaz Kar

07 Hallaj

08 Gharib

09 Nassiryah

10 Milad

11 Chamelier

12 Dialogue E Sourds

13 Bayati


Christmas Hymns for Syria: Fairuz

Syrian refugee children make a snowman in Turkey.

Syrian refugee children make a snowman in Turkey.

Christmas has snuck up on me this year. I’ve not had much time to look at the calendar in the last few months and suddenly everyone is off for their holidays to Burma, Bali, Denmark and USA.  I, alas, remain behind here in KL. And the family, double alas, in Melbourne.


To ring in the season we share a Christmas album from the one and only Fairuz. A couple of traditional seasonal songs mixed in with Arabic and presumably French carol tunes. Nothing too adventurous or audacious. But as always Fairuz sings with a lightness and as appropriate to my take on the season, low key and relaxing.


Given the horrific times in her native Lebanon and neighboring Syria, where children, families and old folks are struggling to survive in the snow, seemingly ignored a world content to let their country cannablise itself, these soft songs take on healing properties.


If you would like to make a donation to the people of Syria, here are a couple of links that can provide you with more information and a link to donate.  AS always, WD gets 0% of any donations.




To donate:

Christmas Hymns

Track Listing:

01 Carillons

02 Sawt El Eid (Silent Night)

03 Laylet Eid (Jingle Bells)

04 Talj Talj

05 Najmet Eid (Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes)

06 Ya Mariyam El Bekr

07 Soubhan El Kalima

08 Arsalallah

09 Ya Oum Allah

10 Carillons



Breathtaking: Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem

There is a feeling in the music of Anouar Brahem of being wrapped up and warm.  The oud, with its rubbery pluckings and mellow and honeyed tones seems to blend perfectly with the clarinet which glides and slides from depth to depth.  You may not have travelled this way before, to Djibouti or Beirut, but you are safe. And you feel it.

Astounding is a reference, in the name of this album, to a woman’s eyes.  But really it is a valid a description of the playing and musical vision of Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem. He is usually placed in the very front lines of the those who play this old Arabian lute instrument; in his rich music and with his wonderfully selected band members, he has moved the instrument forward with grace and nuance.

Albums as perfect as this appear rarely. Tunisian oud maestro Brahem has been one of ECM’s most-revered artists for years, pioneering a superior kind of east-west fusion (although that makes it sound less interesting than it is).

But this quartet recording beats anything I’ve heard from him yet. Dedicated to the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, the album’s eight originals trace a continuous arabesque, wind and strings intertwining against a trance-like rhythmic pulse, which at times gets heavy enough to recall Massive Attack’s remix of Nusrat. (The Independent)

The Astounding Eyes Of Rita

Track Listing:

Al Birwa

Dance With Waves

For No Apparent Reason

Galilee Mon Amour

Stopover At Djibouti

The Astounding Eyes Of Rita

The Lover Of Beirut

Waking State

Egyptian Crossroads: Hamid el Shaeri

Tahrir Square

The news from Tahrir Square tonight seems more positive. But of course, that depends very much from which balcony you watch the proceedings.  I felt proud of yet another demonstration of people’s power and the ousting of a man who seemed determined to rule for some more than other.

On the other hand, I felt unsettled that a man and Party elected only a year ago in what was deemed a fair and free election is being pushed out by ‘people’ who could be seen as sour losers.

And I don’t trust any military intervention. Sorry! I’ve lived too long in a country called Pakistan to know any different.

So let’s see what happens in that grand old country. It’s a country we need and a people we need to have empowered.   Go Egypt!

In the meantime, as the dust settles, here’s a bit of Arabic pop from the one and only, former rude-boy of Egyptian music, Hamid el Shaeri.









Track Listing:

01 Ainy

02 Mahma Hawlo

03 Roddy Alia

04 Law Tekdar Tensany

05 Bethebeny

06 Al Fostan Al Aswad

07 Lon Ainaek

08 Tohgorny

09 Waily


The music of empty moments: Anouar Brahem

ca dance

This record reminds me of a winter afternoon in Tashkent.  Like all grand Soviet-built cities, modern Tashkent (there has been a urban community living around the place for many many centuries) is designed to a familiar and similar urban plan.  Yes, there are the heavily constructed concrete buildings that impose themselves on the all sides. And there are the broad boulevards and streets that make it easy for tanks to roll into place when deemed necessary.


But one of the most pleasant aspects of Central Asian (perhaps most former Soviet) cities is  the amount of space given over to parks and green walking areas. Near the gravitational center of the city you’ll find massive open spaces planted with lots of shade and fruit trees. In summer kids tumble on the grass and splash in the fountain if its working. Couples sit on a blanket eating melons and apricots and roasting goat meat kebabs. In winter skaters are on the ice and babuskhas sell hot chestnuts.  Tashkent doesn’t often get snow so on sunny winter days little lean-tos of plastic sheeting pop up as impromptu karaoke stalls along the wide concrete paths that criss-cross the garden.

Timur Park, Tashkent

I visited Tashkent regularly as a transit point to Europe or Asia. And one particular visit stands out in my mind with vivid clarity.  It was a mid-winter afternoon.  The sky was clear and coloured pale blue. The sun was bright but not very strong.  You felt the nip of cold on your knuckles all the time.  My wife and had time to kill. We found a park, named after Timur Lang (Tamerlane), I think.  Though it was a nice day, the place seemed almost entirely deserted.  We ambled around the walkways, looking for nothing in particular in no particular hurry.


The karoke stalls were abandoned. They would be full in a few hours though, as Tashkentis seemed to believe singing was especially fun after dark.  A feeling of general emptiness had settled on the garden. Nothing moved very quickly, if at all.  Even the branches were empty of leaves. Once in a while a stiff branch scraped up against another and a whispered crack sounded. There was no music playing and I don’t recall hearing the whoosh of the traffic.


For those moments we walked as if in a bubble. Just the quiet shuffle of our feet and breathing kept us company.  It was a gorgeous time and something not quite of this world.


When I hear Anouar Brahems record Astrakan Cafe I’m immediately taken back to that silent Central Asian walk.  With his oud and the clarinet and drum of his Turkish friends, he recreates that time and place.  This is the mysterious allure of music.  Sounds replicate and recreate visions and sensations. The record is inspired, of course, by the sounds and cultural atmosphere of Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus’.  Regions of the world where people  are in no rush to finish up at the cafe and where dances can combust suddenly into existence on the echo of distant music.


Like all of Brahem’s music this is moody, evocative and dynamic stuff. As cigarette smoke, it sways this way and loops in around itself, never tracing the exact pattern twice but always hanging within reach. The oud, more than any other instrument, is able to  touch those mellow tones that define those places off the beaten track on an off day.  The strings vibrate like honey when plucked and seem to weep real tears.


I only wish I could be sitting in a cafe in Mozdok  sipping a muddy coffee as I listened again and again to his music.













Track Listing:

01 Aube Rouge À Grozny

02 Astrakan Café (1)

03 The Mozdok’s Train

04 Blue Jewels

05 Nihawend Lunga

06 Ashkabad

07 Halfaouine

08 Parfum De Gitane

09 Khotan

10 Karakoum

11 Astara

12 Dar Es Salam

13 Hijaz Pechref

14 Astrakan Café (2)



Baghdad Boy: Ilham Madfai

ilham madfai

I’ve mentioned before (on the old Washerman’s  Dog site) the time 22 years ago I worked for the UN in Iraq. I was assigned to lead an international team in providing humanitarian and protection support to recently returned Kurds in the northeast part of the country.  As we waited for our travel permits to be authorized by the government (the first Bush War against Saddam had wound up a few months previously, but the situation was still tense), we passed the days in the Sumer Hotel, doing not much. Days were spent swimming in the pool, afternoons ambling through the shops. Nights passed slowly.

In the hotel room there was no satellite or cable. Obviously, the Sumer was not a CNN hotel. National Iraqi TV broadcast old Egyptian and sometime, Indian movies, and lots of propaganda about the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure post 10 years of war. In between shows were a sort of Ba’ath MTV. Singers, garbed either in smart but slightly weird ‘modern’ clothes, or traditional Arabic robes, sang songs that apparently extolled their love for the Supreme Leader, Saddam Hussein.  As the singers went through their paces photos of Saddam or his family would flash on the screen, often holding a shot gun or in full military regalia. Naturally, the singer and the song paled into insignificance.


During those 6 months I never heard of Ilham al Madfai, the subject of tonight’s post.  My conception of Iraqi music was held in complete thrall to those dictator-adoring singers.  When my wife returned from a second period of work in Iraq in late 2002 she came with a CD or two of Ilham’s music.  When I popped one on, not expecting too much, I was completely blown away.  And ever since, Ilham’s been a favourite artist. I  have all his records and hope he keeps recording though he is getting a bit long in the tooth after forty years of making fantastic music.

Ilham Al Madfai was born and raised in the early forties in Baghdad, Iraq.

His musical talent began developing at the age of twelve. He was and remains until today a guitarist at heart. He formally started his musical career when he formed his first band Twisters in 1961, compromising of electric guitar, bass guitar and drums. It was the first band in Iraq and probably the Arab world to use modern rock instruments in playing Arabic music. He pioneered Arabic-World music crossover.

Ilham modernized the traditional Iraqi song giving it a new wider appeal and a new freshness placing it in the modern era. The band created a new wave in Arabic music but Ilham was heavily criticised by the public and media for being an eccentric and for destroying long maintained musical traditions. Further more, his family, who enjoyed a high profile at the time, some of them holding high governmental positions, were not only strongly against his musical style, but also against his involvement in music in general. They were very concerned about their son Ilham developing a socially inappropriate career. mdfat A few years later, Ilham left for England to study Architecture. The young student played with a group and performed at Bayt Al Baghdadi in London, probably better known as Café Baghdad. Ilham attracted a special distinct audience including Paul McCartney, Donovan and Georgie Fame along with many Jazz musicians. Ilham was probably the first Iraqi artist to cross the borders and reach out to a cosmopolitan audience.

When Ilham returned to Baghdad in 1967 he formed his well known band: 13 _. This time Ilham introduced Spanish guitar rhythms from Andalucia to the Iraqi folklore song, appealing to a new, younger audience. He reached the peak of his popularity in Iraq throughout the 70’s, the time of the oil boom, in which Iraq enjoyed international relations. In 1979 when political problems in Iraq began, like many other Iraqis, Ilham left behind his homeland, his wealth, his popularity, and most unfortunate of all – his music. He travelled to different countries trying to pursue different careers, occasionally having music concerts.

When the Gulf war started in 1991, Ilham returned to Baghdad, and decided to restart his musical career forming a band he called Ferqet Ilham (Ilham’s band). They played primarily at Khan Marjan, a popular venue in Baghdad. Ilham, like most of his fellow Iraqis, had to struggle to re-establish his life during the 90’s, he earned his living from the concert circuit around the world, from North America to Europe to South Korea, mainly re-uniting with his faithful Iraqi audience from over three decades – sharing his longing and nostalgia for the homeland. Ilham has worked with many western and oriental musical talents. He has played with talents as diverse as Donovan, Art Blakey, Johnny “Ace” Harris, Munir Bachir, Tommy Aros, Nazem El Ghazaley, Glen Fisher, Chico, Sabah, Hollis Gentry, Aboud Abdel Al, and collaborated lyrically with the likes of Nazar Qabbani, Bedr Shakir El Sayyab, Ilyya Abu Maadhi, Abdul Qassim Al Shabi, and Abdel Wahab El Bayati.

Throughout this period Ilham continued to experiment in fusing different musical styles, mainly Oriental, Latin, and Jazz. He also re-recorded his most popular songs with a new feel and spirit – in different places, with different people, and at different times. There is an element of permanence and change in Ilham’s songs. There is a story behind every song. Ilham has played a significant role in the development of his country’s rich musical heritage through his unique new arrangements of classic Iraqi folklore songs. He has conserved them for present and future generations. 
His songs will continue to live among the many Iraqis at home and all over the world. Ilham is a hero for them – young and old are gathering in his concerts – singing, dancing, crying with emotion. As a spokesman for the Mesopotamia Club in California stated “Though Ilham‘s home remains Baghdad, his real home is in the hearts of his fans in every corner of this planet.”


Dishasha is his 4th commercially available album.  In this outing he brings the Andalusian flavor to the fore, especially on the sweet opening number.  While not quite as strong as his other works this is a fine record and full of enjoyable, foot tapping melodies and rhythms. His cover of the old Sinatra hit, Fly Me to the Moon, sung in English, finishes the record off on a high note. Dishdasha Track Listing:

01 Ya Bunaya

02 Hroof El Hobb

03 Sayeb

04 Babouri

05 Dishdasha

06 Habibi Rah

07 Bein El Asser W El Maghreb

08 Ma Muqtinea Beek

09 Marina

10 Wein Rayeh Wein

11 Fly Me To The Moon


Dromedary of Unusual Hue: Rabih Abou Khalil

A camel of Blue

A camel of Blue

My colleague, political advisor, sports-baiter and friend, Phillip Walker introduced me to the music of Rabih Abou-Khalil, the Lebanese master oud player who is also an accomplished composer and arranger of jazz music. And a bringer together of equally talented musicians from all around the world to make music.

Born and raised in the cosmopolitan climate of Beirut in the sixties and seventies,Rabih Abou-Khalil leaned to play the oud, the Arabian short-necked lute, at the age of four. In the Arab world this instrument is as popular as the guitar or the piano in the West and is the composer’s instrument par excellence. The Lebanese civil war forced hirn to leave his country in 1978 to study dassical flute in the German city of Munich, where he was tutored at the Munich Academy of Music by Walther Theurer. The analytical preoccupation with the European classical tradition enabled him to grasp Arabic music from a further, theoretical position, opening his eyes to the possibility of operating simultaneously within musically divergent systems. Whereas Arab instrumentalists were content to imitate human voice techniques, Abou-Khalil set out to explore new ways of playing his instrument. Music critics have even recommended his accomplished technique as a “study for jazz guitarists”; his ballads, on the other hand, rekindle memories of the poetic dawn of Arabian culture, without ever sounding even remotely traditionalistic.

Rabih Abou-Khalil has asserted himself in the avant-garde as a composer as well as an instrumentalist. This is not just because he is ahead of his time – but because he also questions what others might pursue without further reflection. With his original composing technique, his unconstrained, yet daring approach to dassical Arabic music, he has found a musical language entirely his own. Commissioned by the Südwesrfunk (Southwest German Radio), Abou-Khalil wrote two unusual compositions for string quartet in his own rhythmically and melodically charged style. The maiden performance with the Kronos String Quartet was the highlight at the Stuttgart Jazz Summit in 1992. On his CD, “Arabian Waltz”, with the Balanescu String Quartet he successfully integrated the string quartet – for centuries the domain of European classical music – into his musical language.

What superficially appears to be a chance encounter between opposing instruments and a seemingly antagonistic dash of talents from different musical worlds is in fact the result of a well pondered upon concept. Under Abou-Khalil’s guidance these undeniable differences by no means descend into Babylonian confusion. On the contrary, the cosmopolizan musicians from different cultural backgrounds draw inspiration from their shared intuitive understanding of the serious challenge they face in interpreting Abou-Khalil’s music. The intellectual and emotional identification with these compositions unleashes charges of enthusiasm in each of the players, inciting new heights of musical mastery. Yet the temptation of individual one-upmanship is never as strong as the collective innovative endeavor and exploration into uncharted terrain. The highly varied works by Abou-Khalil – all nonetheless derived from this very elixir – now stand in their own right, extending so far beyond convention that they somehow elude all fixed categories. Abou-Khalil’s music thrives on creative encounters and not on exoticism. From a combination of diverse cultural elements something very personal and coherent emerges. Thus it would be fruitless ro mull over descriptions such as Orient or Occident, jazz, world music or classical.

Rabih Abou Khalil

Rabih Abou Khalil

Commissioned by the BBC Concert Orchestra to write music for orchestra, Abou-Khalil wrote works that were performed in London and Chichester. For another project for the German city of Duisburg he chose ro collaborate wim the Ensemble Modern, one of the most renowned orchestras specializing in contemporary music. “While working with Rabih Abou-Khalil, I was starkly reminded of a saying by Herbert von Karajan: ‘Do not pIay the bar along with the music, play across the measure’.” That was how Dietmar Wiesner, the flute player of the Ensemble Modem, summed up his impressions from the rehearsals: “Unbelievably fine, irregular rhythms, masterfully formed into melodic chains that remain in a floating condition, never setting to land, and thus reaching a high level of charm that relentlessly pulls the listener imo its magic.” (

Blue Camel is the pinnacle to date of Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil‘s achievement as a jazzman. In both mood and scope, it can almost be characterized as a new Kind of Blue. Both tense and reflective, it is perfect for listening after midnight. Abou-Khalil brings back Charlie Mariano on alto sax and Kenny Wheeler on flügelhorn and trumpet, and they generally alternate solos with Abou-Khalilhimself. Rounding out the roster is Steve Swallow on bass, Milton Cardona on congos, Nabil Khaiat on frame drums, and Ramesh Shotham on South Indian drums and percussion. They form a tight ensemble and play comfortably with each other. The album opens with “Sahara,” which contains both one of Abou-Khalil‘s tunes, a mesmerizing melody that could be either Arabic or jazz, and one of Abou-Khalil‘s best solos, a well-defined interlude that delightfully features the unique timbre of the oud. “Tsarka” begins with a fast break on the oud that turns out to be one of the two motifs on which everything is built. After it is elaborated for a few bars, the oud comes back with another building block. Then we get some stunning improvisations, especially from Abou-Khalil. “Ziriab” opens with a trumpet solo in which Kenny Wheeler tests the compass of his instrument, backed up with some atmospheric sounds from the udu drum; then Abou-Khalil enters with another great tune for everyone to build on. The title track is nothing but fun. Seductive percussion ushers in Wheeler and Mariano playing in unison for a tune that is somewhere between Duke Ellington and the court of Baghdad. As the percussion bubbles along, Milton Cardona‘s congos adding a Latin flavor to the proceedings, Abou-Khalil steps up with a very fast and rhythmic, if not very tuneful, solo. Midway through the track, Mariano blisters the paint with a screeching sax workout that bridges the Arabic and the Latin, while remaining all the while pure jazz. Even Steve Swallow gets a chance to feature his bass after which the ensemble brings it together and takes it home. Some of the other tracks are not as good as the ones mentioned above, but they are all listenable and very atmospheric. The aptly named “A Night in the Mountains” is a slow, thoughtful walk, perfect for silent contemplation. The album ends with “Beirut,” named for the Lebanese city torn by civil war from which Abou-Khalil had to flee many years ago. The track begins with a quiet oud solo and then builds to something more chaotic and striving. Blue Camel may not be a perfect album, but it demonstrates better than any other that a fusion between jazz and a musical form from another culture is possible and can work to the advantage of both. Plus, it’s just great listening.  (AMG)

Blue Camel

Track Listing:

01. Sahara

02. Tsarka

03. Ziriab

04. Blue Camel

05. On Time

06. A Night in the Mountains

07. Rabou Abou Kabou

08. Beirut