High Hills in the Creaving Road (Ancient Records 2012, CD)
High Hills in the Creaving Road is the latest release by inspired world fusion band Mawwal. The group is led by multi-instrumentalist and composer Jim Matus. He is a busy man, involved in numerous musical projects that revolve around world fusion, trance music, jazz and improvisatory music.
Matus is deeply influenced by the music of Central and South Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa. High Hills in the Creaving Road contains primarily original pieces by Matus as well as new arrangements of traditional music from Morocco, Pakistan and Uzbekistan and a fascinating version of the classic ‘Mustt Mustt’ by Qawwali music master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Mawwal’s music is characterized by the brilliant mix of skilled instrumentalists and gifted vocalists. On High Hills in the Creaving Road we find Jim Matus with his familiar laouto (Greek lute), the hybrid laoutar and baricello. The laoutar is a rare instrument, a cross between the Greek laouto, a mandocello and a guitar. It has eight strings and is tuned like a cello. Matus plays it with a percussive technique.
Although Mawwal’s music is inspired by the trance traditions of the East and the Magreb, Matus brings a progressive folk edge to the music. The combination of his male vocals with the female Celtic-rooted singer Jill O’Brien and Latvian vocalist Laila Salins, create an amalgam of vocal sounds unique to Mawwal.
On the instrumental side, Matus’ string instruments combined with the fiery Indian-style violins, the beauty of the bansuri flute and the rich palette of percussion instruments create a mesmerizing synthesis.
The album lineup includes Jim Matus (laouto, laoutar, baricello, vocals); Jill O’Brien (vocals); Joe O’Brien (bass, fretless bass); Nur Habib Tiven (drums); Michel Moushabeck (dumbek, riq, daf); Jay Gandhi (bansuri flute); Thorne Palmer (vocals); Derrik Jordan (vocals, kalimba); Jason Schwartz (upright bass); Eric Berlin (trumpet, piccolo trumpet); Stephen Haynes (trumpet); and Vicky Richards (violin)
The album also features high profile guests from the worlds of fusion, world music, jazz and classical, including Middle Eastern percussionist Shane Shanahan (Yo Yo Ma, Glen Velez), Rohan Gregory on violin (Klezmatics), Indian tabla maestro Harshal Tole, bassist Percy Jones (Brand X, Brian Eno, David Sylvian), extraordinary drummer, percussionist and balafonist Tony Vacca, and Latvian vocalist Laila Salins.
High Hills in the Creaving Road is another remarkable release by the East Coast masters of world fusion.