Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Two Oudities (Ouch!)
For me I think the first thing I can think of is a general interest and appreciation for the sound of eastern music, which probably dates back to my recordings in the 60s of Ravi Shankar, whose Indian music and sitar playing first introduced a lot of us to new sounds alien to our western ears. Another long-time exposure for me was traditional Israeli music and klesmer music. Finally, the oud mirrors my favorite type of guitar/stringed instrument playing, which is the full-bodied sound of an acoustic instrument. I find acoustic guitar, be it folk guitar or flamenco, or classical, to have a richer, more full bodied sound, with more layers, than the electric guitar.
Putting all this together, I find the oud to have a very senuous, rich and deeply felt sound. Being fretless and having 11 strings -- five paired strings and one bass string -- it can provide more tones using the eastern scale, and more subtle harmonies whichh add great depth, even when played with simpler western scales.
In short, the oud provides great coloration, a deep and rich acoustic sound, and a wide range of possible notes given its fretless neck and paired strings.
Rabih Abou Khalil links the east and west in his selection of instruments on "Al-Jadida", with Sonny Fortune on saxophone forming the strongest bond. Some of the music is boppish in Fortune's hands, yet the rest of the instrumation reflects both the eastern tradition, with percussion suggestive of African music. Abou-Khalil wrote all the music, and linkage of the classical western traditions, jazz, and eastern music is evident and reflective of his education. Titles like "Catania", or " Ornette Never Sleeps" suggest the western, while "Nadim" or "Nasbuwa" suggest the eastern. Overall the music has great harmonics, rapturous and sinous melodies, and very strong percussive undercurrents.
On his second recording, Brahem was listed as a sideman. This was "Madar" , a recording of Jan Gabarek, but given the stripped down ensemble -- the only other player was Ustad Shaukat Hussain on tabla -- he had a major role in shaping the melodies and in providing supporting harmonies. Together Gabarek and Brahem produced a distinctive sound and some distinctive melodies, including some that merged Norwegian folk songs with the eastern instruments. The tabla play is strong and helps to drive the music along as the melodies and sinuous interplay of the other two create a really fine partnership.
If you are at all interested in eastern music and instruments, in the mix of jazz and eastern traditions, and melodies that are often haunting but always beautiful, then by all means listed to these two artists. And if you appreciate the oud, then look too at the music of Amos Hoffman, Omer Avital, and others who are spreading this fascinating instrument across many other platforms.