Osama Abdulrasol quintet - Album: Jedid
Jedid, the title of the latest project by Iraqi musician Osama Abdulrasol and his quintet, might refer to an Arabic/Urdu word meaning “modern” or “new,” an apt label for a body of composition that seeks to bridge languages and musical styles with common themes in fairly refreshing ways. Abdulrasol, a master of the 'ud and the qanun (Arabic lap harp), extemporizes on romantic and spiritual love: the vocals, by Belgian singer Helena Schoeters, draw on the work of famous poets and original lyrics. The others in the quintet (Philippe Thuriot, accordion; Lode Vercampt, cello; François Taillefer, percussion) alternately support and embrace the melodies of each track.
A key point of interest for this project is that though the lineup is clearly international, the languages of the lyrics extend well beyond the band members' individual cultural backgrounds. Despite their variety, the linguistic and purely musical elements commingle effectively due to common expressive goals. For example, “Ghazal” overlaps Schoeters' vocal ornaments and Abdulrasol's qanun tremolos characteristic of Arabic love-song styles with seductive lyrics in French and Arabic (“I love the taste of this forbidden fruit”). In the second half of the tune, Thuriot takes over melodic duties with some dazzling accordion work evocative of the iconic Parisian street sounds that have made listeners fall in love from afar for decades.
“78 Sky,” a piece based on Pablo Neruda's Sonnet LXVI, examines the possibilities of repetition and dynamics alike, with Shoeters tracing the poem's Spanish text but changing the order of the lines, just as the band behind her rises and falls at unpredictable moments. Immediately following, Vercampt's contemplative cello work sets the stage for “Stairway (Sullem),” an examination of longing in French and Arabic alike, with a curious melding of Baroque arpeggiation and Arabic rhythmic schemes. By Dylan McDonnell
Aside from the heavier lyrical content, Jedid jams hard. “Gypsy in Baghdad” references styles from Prince-esque funk to Turkish court music repertoire to the globalized combination of clave and Romani-associated grooves. Abdulrasol's qanun playing is at its peak virtuosity here, supported by a joyous rhythm section. Taillefer's frame-drum playing leads the charge on “El Burjain (2 towers dance)” and commands the transitions between sections while inviting others to close in on solo ideas.
The second half of the record features a string of gorgeously orchestrated miniworks, including the three-piece Heloune Suite (Prelude/Camel Walk/Lucidity) which covers a range of inward-looking ideas, mostly through unmetered passages. The Arabic “Habibu” returns to the theme of intimate love, and it is unabashedly fun: the particular space made for Schoeters' vocals flowing into Thuriot's laughter-like solo presents the musicians as almost smiling through sound. Abdulrasol's final say, a qanun improvisation entitled “Mezaj (taqsim)”, allows the competing sentiments and styles of the entire work to resolve into something more complex yet satisfying, familiar yet unexpectedly new.
OSAMA ABDULRASOL (QANUN & COMPOSITIONS)
Osama Abdulrasol (OsArt) is a composer, producer and qanunplayer and visual Artist. He was born in Babylon (Iraq) and he studied western music (classical guitar) in the UK and eastern music (qanun or Arabic lap harp) in Iraq.
Philippe Thuriot (Accordion)
The Belgian accordionist Philippe Thuriot has been playing on the international stage for 30 years.
He is internationally recognized as one of the most virtuoso and versatile accordion players of this moment, loved both in the world of jazz as in the classical music scene. He was the first to record Bach's Goldberg Variations on accordion.
HELENA SCHOETERS (SOPRANO)
toured as a soprano singer all around Europe. She mixes in a unique way classical and traditional elements in her voice, which makes her the perfect interpreter of Osama Abdulrasol's compositions.
She said; As a child I was fascinated by folksongs and French 'chansonniers'. Renaissance and baroque music became my first real love in the music academy. Opera and lied found a way to my heart through the conservatory. Traditional music never ceased to touch and tempt me. Arabic music crossed my path. This is who I am. This is how I sing.
LODE VERCAMPT (CELLO)
The Belgian cellist who enriches both with his multitude of styles and sounds, as with his ability in improvisation the musical world of the quintet.
FRANÇOIS TAILLEFER (PERCUSSIONS)
Canadian multi-percussionist François Taillefer is passionate percussion that explores worldwide and ages for over twenty-five years. His interest in contemporary music, folk and experimental, was shaped through his many travels and music sharing. He attended several courses of percussion in various countries including France, Spain, Peru, as well as Tunisia and the United States. Sustained during his career in his artistic endeavors by the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec and the Canada Council for the Arts, François graduated in 2010, the French Government, the card Skills and Talents. This long-stay visa allowed him to move to Lille where he develops projects in the arts and culture of the region, while seeking to build bridges between France and Canada. François Taillefer is a curious and adventurous musician who is always looking to expand its horizons in search of new ideas.
Here is the full album