Blue Maqams brings together Anouar Brahem, one of the great masters of the oud, and three of the finest jazz musicians. The music on Blue Maqams is an exquisite mix of Arabic modal music known as maqam, and jazz, classical, flamenco and Brazilian influences. Although there is jazz improvisation, all the pieces, composed by Brahem, have a clearly defined structure.
Anouar Brahem’s oud delights with impeccable performances and interplay with the bass, drums and piano. Dave Holland is one of the most open minded jazz bassists, who has collaborated with flamenco, Latin American and American roots music artists.
The lineup includes Anouar Brahem on oud; Dave Holland on double bass; Jack DeJohnette on drums; and Django Bates on piano.
Blue Maqams is an exceptionally expressive album by oud maestro Anouar Brahem and three dazzling improvisers.
On Creology, Carmen Souza continues to explore Cape Verdean, Brazilian and other lusophone influences interweaving jazz elements. Carmen’s vocal range continues to marvel, changing her pitch easily, from childlike voices to deep bass tones. She adds great vocal overdubs, plus male choruses and call and response sections.
Carmen Souza’s band is spectacular as always, with composer and bass maestro on electric bass, backing vocals and percussion. The equally talented Elias Kacomanolis utilizes a wide-range of global percussion and also contributes backing vocals. Zoe Pascal is a guest percussionist.
Although Carmen Souza is widely-known as a vocalist, she showcases her talent as an instrumentalist as well, playing superb piano on her tribute to classic American jazz, “Pretty Eyes.”
Shams is a 2-CD set by Latvian band Baraka. They describe their music ethno jazz, a term used in Eastern Europe to describe fusions of jazz and world music. Baraka’s sound is rooted in Tajik traditions as well as jazz. Most of the material on Shams are smooth jazz songs featuring vocals by Devika Evsikova spiced up with acoustic musical instruments from Tajikistan, India and other parts of the world.
The highlights of the album are the Tajik funk sections along with the tasty electric piano, sitar and rubob solos.
The lineup includes Devika Evsikova on vocals, bass; Dmitry Evsikov on all percussion, arrangements; Artem Sarvi on piano, keyboards, arrangement; Deniss Pashkevich on flute, sax, bass clarinet, Egor Kovaikov on guitar, sitar, rubob, setor, dutor, vocal; Madars Kalninš on piano, keyboards; Viktor Ritov piano, keyboards; Raivo Stašans on saxophone; Valery Korotkov on piano, synths, arrangements; Omed Dost on vocals; Normund Piesis on flugelhorn, trumpet; Sergey Gasanov on saz, dilruba, duduk, vocals; Zigmund Žukovsky on bass; Alijon Boynazarov on rap; Govinda Tiwari on vocals; Alex Suris on accordion; Basel Wehbe on vocala; and Vilnis Kundrats on saxophone.
The set comes nicely packaged in a hard cover sleeve with a CD booklet that includes illustrations and credits.
The Sachal Ensemble was formed by Izzat Majeed, a Pakistani investor and hedge fund manager who became a philanthropist and music producer. Born in Lahore in 1950, Majeed’s dream was to recreate the soundtrack of his childhood. His hometown, the second largest city in Pakistan, was once a cultural and artistic center in the region.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lahore was at a peak as the home of “Lollywood,” the Pakistani equivalent of India’s Bollywood. Movies featured between 10 to 15 songs and the industry employed a considerable number of musicians, composers and arrangers. Music was fundamental to the life of the city.
Izzat’s father, Abdul Majeed, was the chairman of the film producers association of Pakistan and a music lover who would take his son to hear all the touring American jazz musicians passing through Lahore. That’s how an 8-year-old Majeed got to hear pianist Dave Brubeck at a venue near his family home. Brubeck was still a year away from recording “Take Five,” which would become the biggest selling jazz single ever. For the young Izzat, the concert had a profound effect. “That’s where I got hooked on jazz,” says Majeed.
But following a military coup in July 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became president and his dictatorship set out to “cleanse” Pakistan’s cultural landscape. Most non-religious music was declared sinful and the film industry, severely limited by religious bans, fell to pieces. In Lahore, even virtuoso musicians had to become taxi drivers or shopkeepers just to make a living.
Despite his success in finance, Majeed’s true passions “have always been and will always be about art and music,” he affirms. And so, he decided to do something about it.
“These great musicians – from both folk and classical schools – were left hungry and jobless,” said Majeed in a recent interview. “We were losing our instruments, losing our musicians, losing our culture; something had to be done about it.”
Long a patron of the arts and a lover of poetry (he is a published poet himself), Majeed founded Sachal Studios, named after the Sufi poet Saeein Sachal Sarmast, in 2003, on Waris Road, once the center of Lahore’s film studios. He then looked for the city’s great musicians, many of whom had put away their instruments. What’s more, Majeed had to buy instruments for several players.
Initially, Majeed and the Sachal Ensemble focused on the region’s classical and folk music. But then, he started to dream about the possibility of jazz being played on local instruments, and once he introduced the sounds and concepts of jazz, the musicians “took to it very naturally.” As they searched for a broader audience and looked outside Pakistan, they began to explore cross-cultural versions of Western jazz standards, pop and film classics.
Unexpectedly, Sachal Ensemble had a breakthrough when a video of their version of Brubeck’s Paul Desmond classic “Take Five” went viral. Brubeck, who died in December, 2012, in reality got a chance to listen to it, calling it “the most interesting recording of it I have ever heard.”
Pakistani 10-piece Sachal Ensemble will be touring the United States for the first time during October and November 2017. The group, formed by philanthropist and music producer Izzat Majeed, mixes typical Western instruments like piano, bass and drums with traditional South Asian ones, such as tabla, dholak and sarangi.
The Sachal Ensemble’s repertoire on this 2017 tour will combine traditional Sufi music, ragas and treasured Pakistani cinema songs (like “Ranjha Ranjha,” from the movie Raavan) with distinctively South Asian versions of Western classics, including The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind,” and, their unique recreation of Dave Brubeck’s hit “Take Five” that became a YouTube sensation with over 1 million views.
The international phenomenon created by the “Take Five” video led to an invitation in 2013 for the Sachal Ensemble to collaborate with trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The musicians’ remarkable journey from Lahore to Lincoln Center was captured in Song of Lahore, a documentary film by Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken.
An album released in the United States soon followed, Song of Lahore (Universal Music Classics, 2016), featuring the Sachal Ensemble collaborating with Wynton Marsalis, Meryl Streep, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Nels Cline of Wilco, Madeleine Peyroux and Sean Lennon.
A recent Pakistan-only release, titled Jazz and All That, includes Sachal Ensemble ‘s versions of Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk,” and songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl”, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave” and Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther.”
The current lineup includes:
Baqar Abbas – bansuri
Nadeem Abbas – bass
Rafiq Ahmad – daff
Asad Ali – guitar
Danish Ali – piano
Najaf Ali – dholak
Zohaib Hassan – sarangi
Ijaz Hussain – tabla
Ali Shaiba – drums
Nijat Ali – conductor
Sachal Ensemble 2017 North American Tour
Friday, Oct. 27 – Vienna, VA at The Barns at Wolf Trap
Sat, Oct. 28 – Schenectady, NY at PrOct.or’s Theatre
Sun, Oct. 29 – Cambridge, MA at Berklee Performance Center
Mon, Oct. 30 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Thu, Nov. 2 – Easton, PA at Lafayette College / Williams Center
Sat, Nov. 4 – Miami, FL at Miami Dade College / Olympia Theater
Sun, Nov. 5 – New York, NY at NYU Skirball Center
Tue, Nov. 7 – Calgary, AB, Canada, Arts Commons / Jack Singer Concert Hall
Thu, Nov. 9 – Markham (Toronto), ON, Canada at Flato Markham Theatre
Sun, Nov. 12, Phoenix, AZ at, Musical Instrument Museum
Tue, Nov. 14, Northridge, CA at CSU Northridge / VPAC
Wed, Nov. 15, Stanford, CA at Stanford University / Bing Concert Hall
Sat, Nov. 18, Folsom, CA at Harris Center / Stage 1
Quadro Nuevo & Cairo Steps – Flying Carpet (Fine Music/Justin Time, 2017)
Flying Carpet is a project that brings together two German ensembles, Quadro Nuevo and Cairo Steps that intersect world music and jazz. On Flying Carpet the two ensembles are joined by an additional set of Middle Eastern musicians.
On Flying Carpet you’ll find a remarkable mix of lively world fusion, cinematic passages, Sufi chants, classical elements, jazz and lounge as well, where western classical music instruments interact with Middle Eastern instruments such as oud, ney, frame drums and darbuka.
Quadro Nuevo is a German acoustic world jazz quartet that was founded in 1996. Personnel: Mulo Francel on woodwinds; Dietmar Lowka on bass and percussion; Andreas Hinterseher on accordion; and Evelyn Huber on harp.
Cairo Steps includes German and Egyptian instrumentalists that combine Egyptian traditions with jazz and classical music, using western, Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments. Personnel: Basem Darwisch on oud; Rageed William on nay and duduk; Wolfgang Witteman on soprano and alto saxophones; Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff on grand piano; Matthias Frey on piano; Max Klass on percussion; Stefan Hergenröder on bass; Ragy Kamal on kanun; Hani Alsawaf on percussion; Shereen Azmy on violin; Emad Azmy on violin; Amir Akhnoukh on violin; Ahmed Tarek on violin; and Jan Boshra on cello.
Guests on Flying Carpet include Ali El Helwabi on vocals; Sheikh Ehab Younis on vocals; Dr. Ines Abdeldaiem on flute; and Ahmed Kawala on kawala.
Norwegian folk music, jazz and early music come together in The Magical Forest, a captivating album by Norwegian vocalist, kantele player and composer Sinikka Langeland.
Highlights of The Magical Forest are Sinikka’s gorgeous vocals, her mesmerizing kantele and the beautiful vocal interactions with Oslo’s Trio Mediaeval.
The artists featured on The Magical Forest are Sinikka Langeland on kantele, vocals; Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor saxophones; Arve Henriksen on trumpet; Anders Jormin on double bass; Markku Ounaskari on drums, percussion; and Trio Mediaeval featuring Anna Maria Friman; Berit Opheim; and Linn Andrea Fuglseth on vocals.
Jocelyn Medina – Common Ground (Running Tree Records, 2007)
Common Ground is Jocelyn Medina’s third album. She’s a talented jazz singer and composer who incorporates world music elements to her music, inspired by her travels to India, Brazil and Ghana. On Common Ground you’ll find a great set of original songs by Medina that mix contemporary jazz harmonies, Indian melodies and Ghanaian rhythms.
Medina is joined by a superb multinational cast of instrumentalists who have plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. In addition to Jocelyn’s vocals, highlights include Steve Gorn’s bansuri work throughout the album, Samir Chatterjee’s dazzling tabla, the guitar lines delivered by Pete McCann and the delightful female/male vocal interplay between Jocelyn and Achyut Joshi on the opening track “Two But Not Two.”
The lineup on Common Ground includes Jocelyn Medina on vocals; Steve Gorn on bansuri (Indian flute); Hadar Noiberg on flute; Pete McCann on electric and acoustic guitar; Art Hirahara on piano and Rhodes; Evan Gregor on bass; Mark Ferber on drums; Samir Chatterjee on tabla; Robert Levin on percussion; and Achyut Joshi on vocals.
The prolific Indian slide guitar maestro Debashish Bhattacharya loves to collaborate with other musicians. He has released exquisite solo albums as well as remarkable collaborations with jazz and world music artists. On this occasion, Debashish and his brother Subhasis (tabla) team up with two acclaimed jazz musicians, Norwegian saxophone player Anders Lønne Grønseth and innovative American guitar player Kenny Wessel.
The East West fusion works perfectly, especially when the two totally different guitar styles interact with each other. Debashish uses his habitual mesmerizing resophonic guitars while Kenny Wessel uses the electric guitar and the interplay is exquisite.
Anders Lønne Grønseth’s saxophone also blends well with the guitars and tabla, especially when he uses the softer form of playing the sax, when it feels more like a whisper.
The lineup includes Debashish Bhattacharya on chaturangui and National resophonic guitars; Anders Lønne Grønseth on tenor and soprano saxophones; Kenny Wessel on electric guitar; and Subhasis Bhattacharya on tabla and percussion.
Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, son of the legendary Ustad Alla Rakha, has built a reputation as one of the finest tabla players in Indian classical music.
Zakir Hussain was born March 9 March, 1951 in Mumbai, India. He began performing as a child prodigy at age 8. In constant demand as an accompanist, he has performed with most of India’s greatest musicians and dancers. While he has few equals as a traditional tabla player, he has also been an innovator, bridging the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions by performing with both North and South Indian masters and presenting percussion concerts both as a soloist and with other drummers.
In addition to his dedication to the Indian classical music tradition, Zakir has been a pioneer in introducing the tabla to wider audiences in the West through his collaborations with jazz and rock musicians, and with percussionists from Latin America, Africa and Europe. As a member of the East-West fusion group Shakti, he won critical acclaim for his virtuosity.
Zakir’s father, Alla Rakha passed away in February of 2000, but his legacy continues with the Masters of Percussion tours that feature Zakir and two of his brothers (Fazal and Taufiq Qureshi).
Zakir Hussain’s 1986 ECM album Making Music was a major statement in the world music arena, with Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin and bansuri flute genius Hariprasad Chaurasia as contributors.
Zakir Hussain has composed and performed music for various films. He arranged the opening music for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Hussain has also played on several ECM albums with violinist L. Shankar: Who’s to Know, Song for Everyone, Nobody Told Me, M.R.C.S., and Pancha Nadai Pallavi.
He played with Tabla Beat Science whose high-volume clash of cultures incorporated an ever-shifting cast of percussionists and DJs around a core of Zakir, sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan and bassist Bill Laswell. Zakir Hussain has also collaborated on music for ballet with Yo-Yo Ma.
In 2007, Zakir was chosen by the government of India to compose an anthem, “Jai Hind,” to celebrate India’s 60th year of independence.
Zakir has been the recipient of many awards and titles, including Padma Bhushan (2002); Padma Shri (1988); the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991); the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, this country’s highest honor for achievement in the traditional arts; and Grammy Awards for Best World Music Album for Planet Drum (1992) and Global Drum Project (2009) with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju and Giovanni Hidalgo.