CD REVIEWS – August Part 2

Capture.PNGWorld Music
Joseph and James Tawadros
MGM JT 2016
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Joseph Tawadros is a virtuoso oud player, but here he assays an additional 50 instruments (plus vocals) – and his brother James, another 11! World Music is his 13th album (in as many years) and explores multiple styles/moods/tone- colours/ instrumentation. But 29 pieces in 79’ is where I stumble… my reaction is similar to the man reading the dictionary who said it was ‘fascinating’ but complained ‘it kept changing the subject’; it’s a bit like a sketchbook with multiple interesting ideas that seem to cry out for further development: involving – certainly, but slightly mystifying all the same. Tawadros’ music often reminds me of the improvisatory Moorish element in Spanish music where time seems to stand still as the instrument(s) ‘circle’ a theme or motif (cf. the mid-section of Asturias by Albeniz); also his use of long drones (pedal points) adds to a feeling of ‘static’ contemplation. There’s also a very ancient quality to his music; he’s a bit like the sphinx smiling indefinably at the passing fads and fancies of humankind (and its music) while gazing steadfastly into eternity. Apart from virtuosity, I admire his restlessness; as a means to achievement, it seems to be more a conscious, courageous choice than a divine gift: Haydn, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix …all eager to progress their music; whether Tawadros’ questing spirit will produce something to rival those illustrious gentlemen, only  a lifetime’s work will fully reveal. In the meantime, expect to be entertained, moved and enthralled – as here on World Music.

– Michael Muir


Capture.PNGSing Me Home
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble
Sony Music
✶ ✶ ✶
If you haven’t heard of the Silk Road Ensemble, it is an ensemble made up of performers and composers from more than 20 countries and directed by cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. The success of this ensemble is due to the wonderful mix of music from different cultures. O’Neill’s Cavalry March is an innovative amalgamation of Chinese Pipa music along with Traditional Irish tunes. It is done beautifully with neither of the musical traditions overriding the other. The intertwining of the melodies and the blending of the two parts is worth the listen. Shingashi Song is another mix of traditional Japanese Shakuhachi music with accompanying strings. The texture and the sound quality is moving, beautiful without the need for electronic music or sound effects to boost the drive of the music. Sadila Jana is a beautiful acoustic vocal work, and the beautiful Macedonian melodies really shine through the accompanying string parts. In addition, Wedding is another exotic track from the album which contains melodies from the Arabic culture. The imitation of the instruments using the voice is exciting, along with the exotic flavours coming from the improvisation parts. As a listener you will imagine yourself in an Arabian desert, surrounded by musicians and dancers with flair. Going Home is an extremely serene string work with words sung in Mandarin. This is a cleverly arranged work containing elements from Western classical music and Chinese popular music. This is an interesting album for those who appreciate and enjoy fusions of different cultures of musics. However, if you are a traditionalist then I would not recommend this album to you.

– Leslie Khang


Holding the Stage
Sonny Rollins
Sony Music
✶ ✶ ✶ 1/2

Rather than making any kind of unified statement, Holding the Stage seems content to collect and celebrate the 85-year-old’s recent live work, drawing on performances recorded between 1979 and 2012. Though Rollins’ control on the saxophone is not what it used to be, his ideas have never been more focused or engaging. The ballads – Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood and Johnny Green’s You’re Mine You – are raw rather than sentimental, leaving room for Rollins to explore every corner of these harmonically rich songs. Rollins swings confidently on the bluesy Sweet Leilana and his dedication to Horace Silver H.S. The changing sidemen, recording dates and sound quality from track to track makes for a bumpy ride, but creates some truly interesting paradoxes: Rollins’ tone is at its best on the 1979 track Disco Monk’ despite a rather ill-conceived composition (the name says it all!); whilst on the 2012 duet Mixed Emotions Rollins manages to woo the listener with a technically flawed, fragmented performance that is nonetheless the most poignant, human moment of the album. Some brilliant contributions from the various sidemen are littered throughout – especially pianist Stephen Scott whose solo lifts the energy to breaking point on Keep Hold of Yourself, setting Rollins up for his most visceral solo on the record. It’s not essential Rollins by any means, but an excellent reminder that he’s still here, and still making music with his trademark sincerity and passion.

– David Groves


These reviews appeared in the August edition of Fine Music Magazine – you can subscribe to our monthly magazine and have it posted to your home or business or click the link here to read online.

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