The promo lit for this unusual release cites Michel Sajrawy's highly ethnic Strat style as Pat Martino sieved through koran chant, and that's as good a morph unit as any, but there's also a generous presence of John Abercrombie, especially in the title cut Arabop and then Ya Lel. Too, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti comparisons are inevitable, as the maqam Sajrawy favors and the Carnatic mode McLaughlin loves are not all that distant from one another. Then peek over the rock and jazz-based fence to the work of Ed Powell, Matt Montfort & Ancient Future, Wahid, and other Orientalists, and the larger picture comes into view.
In Arabop, Sajrawy favors the higher end of his axe so that it oft sounds like a piccolo guitar, treading in Srinivas territory, fluid, supple, elastic. Then Stas Zilberman tips in a wide variety of sounds and voices from his drum kit, much more a Jamie Muir than a Bill Bruford, and when Maali Zlar and Amiram Granot swing their saxes into play, you have to quickly look around to ensure you haven't been suddenly transported to a Moroccan/Palestinian bazaar with belly dancers, snake charmers, and djinn capering in the dust, dancing ancient dervish-steps beyond the ken of man. All the while, Sajrawy is exploring liquid modalities, often shredding but also slowing way down for sinuous balladics to lay out the expressive powers of mid-Eastern modes.
In largest part, though, this is indeed pyrotechnic and joins what Leonardo Pavkovic has been releasing over on the MoonJune label with Ligro, SimakDialog and other exotic ensembles. Does such activity mean that we in the West have become jaded to our own musics? No, I don't think so. It's actually that we've become more sophisticated as the refrains of various world cultures have crept into various sonic styles, and now we relish what once perplexed. Of course, it doesn't hurt that a great many modern Eastern practitioners have transplanted rock and jazz into their oeuvres as well, as Sajrawy shows subtly in Hal Asmar Ellon, even tacking on some of what DiMeola's been doing in his own World music ventures. So, if you're looking at expanding your borders, this gent's guitar playing and Byzantine compositions are an excellent mysterious back alley for that, and you'll find, as I have, that you're probably just as much developing an ear and affinity for the ultra-expressive horns of the region, cause, maaaaaan, I could sit and listen to Zlar and Granot all day long. Their work goes beyond mere fascination and joins with Sajrawy's at the hip. And I do mean 'hip'!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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