Monday, January 21, 2019

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1964 - Spellbound

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 

01. Spellbound
02. Never On Sunday
03. Body and Soul
04. Song of Delilah
05. Cinema Blues

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cornet, Violin – Ray Nance
Drums – Walter Perkins
Oud – Hamza Aldeen (tracks: 2, 4)
Piano – Paul Neves
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Seldon Powell

Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 12, 1964

Spellbound, recorded in 1964, is double bassist and oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik's final date as a leader, though given its contents, it shouldn't have been. Abdul-Malik, an American born musician of Sudanese descent, helped to bring the sounds of the Middle East to jazz in the '50s, incorporating oud and a different set of scales in his own recordings. His sidemen for this date are ubiquitous Duke Ellington Orchestra cornetist Ray Nance, who also plays violin here, drummer Walter Perkins, saxophonist/flutist Seldon Powell, the little known pianist Paul Neves, and oud player -- on two tracks -- Sudanese musician Hamza Aldeen (not to be confused with the Egyptian composer, oud and tar player Hamza el Din). The program on this date is unusual: three of the five tunes here come from movie soundtracks. The opening title track is from the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name and features a fine, gently swinging solo from Neves, and some excellent frontline and violin from Nance. "Never on Sunday," from the Greek film of the same name, is a showcase for Aldeen, who twins his lines with Nance's plucked violin, anchored by Abdul-Malik and Perkins. Powell's flute moves off into a solo before the piano and oud restate the theme followed by a saxophone, piano, and second flute break. It's breezy, easy, and it swings. The interplay between Nance's cornet break and Powell's tenor solo registers its emotion as Neves fills the melody with wonderful, spacious, right-hand arpeggios. Abdul-Malik's bass opens "Song of Delilah" from the film Samson & Delilah. He's followed in a complex melodic statement by flute, a gypsy jazz solo by Nance on violin, and finally, a gorgeous oud break based on a single chord -- with deep, responsorial bass from Abdul-Malik -- that eventually moves the tune into a grooving flute break. Closer "Cinema Blues" isn't from a film. Instead, it's a straight-ahead hard bop blues, with some fine muted cornet work, killer comps from Neves, and a fluid, mid-register solo by Powell, with a driving rhythm section. Spellbound isn't as groundbreaking as some of Abdul-Malik's earlier work, but it doesn't need to be: by this point, he had successfully melded jazz with Middle Eastern sounds into a seamless -- if somewhat exotically textural -- whole. The band fires on all cylinders under his inspired direction, making this a fitting sendoff to him as a bandleader. Musically, he saved one of his best for last.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1963 - The Eastern Moods Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
The Eastern Moods Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik

01. Summertime
02. Ancient Scene
03. Magrebi
04. Sa-Ra-Ga' Ya-Hindi
05. Shoof Habebe

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute [Korean Reed Flute], Percussion – Bilal Abdurahman
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Bass, Percussion – William Allen

Recorded June 13, 1963 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

(...)The music on this album, in spite of the unorthodox instrumentation and exotic titles, should prove itself readily accessible to any listener with an open mind and an interest on the fascinating and original fusion of different musical cultures which it represents. (...) from original liner notes

One of the most compelling albums ever recorded by Ahmed Abdul-Malik! The set’s got a style that’s very strongly in keeping with the “eastern moods” of the title – with less of a jazz sound than some of Abdul Malik’s other work, and more spare, exotic instrumentation overall. The group on the set is a trio – Ahmed on bass and oud, Bilal Abdurrahman on alto, Korean reed flute, and percussion, and William Henry Allen on bass and percussion. With that kind of lineup, you can imagine the feel – lots of spare rhythms, with snaking reed work over the top, done in a very evocative way – and although there’s less jazz than usual, the alto sax solos still give the record enough of a jazz component to set it apart from straight world music. The album kicks off with a surprisingly great, and incredibly haunting take on “Summertime”, then rolls into some really wonderful original tunes that include “Ancient Scene”, “Magrebi”, and “Shoof Habebe”.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1962 - Sounds Of Africa

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
Sounds Of Africa

01. Wakida Hena
02. African Bossa Nova
03. Nadusilma
04. Out Of Nowhere
05. Communciation
06. Suffering

Alto Saxophone – Edwin Steede
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cello, Violin – Calo Scott
Clarinet [Darubeka] – Bilal Abdurahman
Congas, Bongos – Montego Joe
Drums – Andrew Cirille (tracks: 4)
Drums – Rudy Collins
Drums [African Drum] – Chief Bey
Flute – Rupert Alleyne
Tenor Saxophone – Eric Dixon (tracks: 4)
Tenor Saxophone – Taft Chandler
Trumpet – Richard Williams (tracks: 4)
Trumpet – Tommy Turrentine

Ahmed Abdul-Malik played bass with Monk for a while (including on the At Carnegie Hall with Coltrane CD recently unearthed). He also can be heard on the sublime Complete 1961 Village Vanguard box set intermittently playing the oud with the classic John Coltrane quartet (which to me is a contender for the greatest music ever recorded). Despite these credentials, Abdul-Malik never achieved more than a moderate amount of recognition for his music, which is too bad considering how good this music on Jazz Sounds of Africa sounds. Right around the same time as the Vanguard recordings he recorded the music on this disc, which sounds equally as "out", and also very different, than what Coltrane was doing.

In fact, this music is so different I'm not really sure what to compare it to. Yusef Lateef was also experimenting with what could be called world fusion jazz, and 15 or 20 years later Don Cherry went there, but Ahmed Abdul-Malik was on his own path. This is music rooted in bop, but every song really goes in a different direction, most with a strong Middle Eastern and African influence. With the exception of Andrew Cyrille on drums, all of the dozen of so players featured on this CD are pretty much unknown to me. It's amazing that he was able to get so many great (but obscure) musicians together to record, and the solos sound inspired and creative throughout.

Sounds of Africa picks up where The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik left off:  the kind of song that you like but wouldn't be caught dead playing with your car windows rolled down.  Abdul-Malik takes his exploration of mixing Jazz with world music to new heights here, increasing the size of his band to include flute, another saxophone and more percussion.  His take on African Bossa Nova is different.  I prefer Duke Ellington's though:  Afro-Bossa.  "Nadusilma" is brilliant, the shock-value equivalent of "La Ibkey" from The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik.  The oud, percussion and trumpet blend together flawlessly.  "Out of Nowhere" doesn't match the title of the album.  Thankfully the next two song do.  Together, "Communcation" and "Suffering" form 16 minutes of a addictive rhythm to end the album.

A wonderfully entertaining set of music from one of jazz musics explorers. Along with the likes of Yusef Lateef Ahmed Abdul-Malik never simply played jazz music.He was forever exploring the music of the world and trying to incorporate it into the world of jazz.His real love was the music of Africa and he made several LP's based around African themes.This one also features a smattering of Brazilian bossa-nova mixed in as well.Mlik plays bass and oud,Tommy Turrentine adds his trumpet and a large drum section features heavily.Violin also features adding an eerie mournful tine at times.This is simply great music and the combination of jazz and various world rhythms works so well.Being a bassist no doubt helps Malik further appreciate the rhythmical structure of the continents music.A very good LP that should not be dismissed as a gimmick.This is proper world music long before it became a fashionable genre for the masses.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1961 - The Music Of Ahmed-Malik

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
The Music Of Ahmed-Malik

01. Nights On Saturn
02. The Hustlers
03. Oud Blues
04. La Ibkey
05. Don't Blame Me
06. Hannibal's Carnivals

Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cello – Calo Scott
Clarinet, Percussion – Bilal Abdurrahman
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Tenor Saxophone – Eric Dixon
Trumpet – Tommy Turrentine

Recorded May 23, 1961

This jazz musician of Sudanese descent shows up here and there on recording sessions from the '60s, including a stint as a member of Thelonious Monk's combo. He also played oud and took part in a variety of attempts to blend his roots music with jazz, out of which this is one of the most successful. Indeed, one might overlook the entire fusion nature of this record and look at is as a prime example of how much brilliant jazz is created often by relatively unknown players, despite traditional historical attempts to credit most of the best jazz to a certain pantheon of so-called "giant" players. The best-known player here is drummer Andrew Cyrille, recorded here early in his career, playing in a more traditional style then he would eventually become known for and playing very well to be sure. The leader's original tunes are catchy and refreshing, revealing new delights with each listen. The version of the standard "Don't Blame Me" is a wonderful showcase for another undersung player, cellist Calo Scott. Of course the usual credit should go to recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, whose efforts recording small combo jazz have never been matched.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik's famous for being part of a Thelonious Monk group that included John Coltrane.  After hearing this you'll wish that Ahmed Abdul-Malik had joined forces with Yusef Lateef to form a massive ensemble that fused world music and Jazz.  He's not quite the multi-instrumentalist that Lateef is but his skills on bass and a guitar-like instrument called the oud are phenomenal.  I get chills up and down my spine imagining an oud/oboe blues duet between them.  Because he is primarily a bassist, Abdul-Malik's composition are highly rhythmic.  Much of the time there's less emphasis on horns and reeds.  Tommy Turrentine certainly plays some fantastic trumpet when he gets a chance.  "La Ibkey" is easily one of my favorite exotic Jazz songs.  The only reason that "Don't Blame Me" sounds remotely foreign is that it features cello.  "Hannibal's Carnivals" could be less cheesy and dated.   What really threw me off is that it's strange to hear free-jazz drumming legend Andrew Cyrille play this kind of music. 

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1960 - East Meets West

Ahmed Abdul-Malik
East Meets West

01. El-Lail (The Night) 4:17
02. La Ibky (Don't Cry) 4:55
03. Takseem (Solo) 5:08
04. Searchin' 4:02
05. Isma's (Listen) 4:15
06. Rooh (The Soul) 3:37
07. Mahawara (The Fugue) 4:12
08. El Ghada (The Jungle)   3:06

Drums – Al Harewood
Flute – Jerome Richardson
Goblet Drum – Bilal Abdurrahman
Goblet Drum – Mike Hamway
Kanun – Ahmed Yetman
Saxophone – Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Lee Morgan
Violin – Naim Karacand
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Recorded at Webster Hall in New York, Tracks 1,2,5 on March 16, 1959, Tracks 3,4,6,7,8 on March 31, 1959

Very hard to classify, but very enjoyable. A lot of this record sounds like the compositions of a modern Arabic musician using traditional instruments. The sound harkens more back to the past than the future with beautiful, evocative, sensual music with underpinning drones at time and haunting violin. Only "La Ibky" seems to fit better within the jazz world than somewhat outside of it. However, on many of the pieces here, including the opening and closing numbers, powerful horns solo over this traditional underpinning, creating an almost psychedelic and potent affect. Other pieces keep to a more classical Arabic sound.  "Mahawara" sounds like a hymn from a Sufi order with a mystical Islamic vocal that accompanies its trance-like rhythms. It would be interesting to take this sound a step further in other directions. As it is, it's quite a powerful record.

A brilliant mix of jazz and world music! Abdul-Malik was the legendary bass player from the fifties who mixed straight jazz playing with traditional Middle Eastern rhythms – and although he most famously recorded albums with Monk as a regular bassist, his albums on his own are amazing blends of jazz and world music, done years before anyone else had contemplated doing so! This album is similar to Abdul-Malik's Jazz Sahara album, in which he plays quite a bit on the Oud – but in this one the ensemble is much more jazz-oriented, and features Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, and Johnny Griffin. The Oud holds center stage on most tracks, but then it drops out, and Morgan and Griffin come wailing in on solos that will rip your socks off! 

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1958 - Jazz Sahara

Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Jazz Sahara

01. Ya Annas (Oh, People) 11:10
02. Isma'a (Listen) 9:10
03. El Haris (Anxious) 11:28
04. Farah' Alaiyna (Joy Upon Us) 6:59

Drums – Al Harewood
Goblet Drum – Mike Hamway
Kanun – Jack Ghanaim
Oud, Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Tambourine – Bilal Abdurrahman
Violin – Naim Karacand

Recorded In New York, October 1958.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik was one of the first musicians to integrate non-Western musical elements into jazz. In addition to being a hard bop bassist of some distinction, he also played the oud, a double-stringed, unfretted Middle Eastern lute, played with a plectrum. Abdul-Malik recorded on the instrument in the '50s with Johnny Griffin and in 1961 with John Coltrane, contributing to one of the several albums that resulted from the latter's Live at the Village Vanguard sessions.

He also recorded several dates under his own name for RCA and Prestige, that were not only refreshingly new in their meld of Middle Eastern sounds with jazz, they were critically lauded as well. These recordings include: Jazz Sahara (1958), East Meets West (1959), The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1961), Sounds of Africa (1962), Eastern Moods of Ahmed Abdul Malik (1963) and Spellbound (1964).
Abdul-Malik was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In his twenties and thirties, he worked as a bassist with Art Blakey, Randy Weston, and Thelonious Monk, among others. He played the oud on a tour of South America under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, and performed at one of the first major African jazz festivals in Morocco in 1972. Beginning in 1970, he taught at New York University and later, Brooklyn College. In 1984, he received BMI's Pioneer in Jazz Award in recognition of his work in melding ancient and modern music. In 1993, just after his death, and continuing into the 21st century, Abdul-Malik's recordings, mostly forgotten by all but ardent jazz fans, began to be reissued with regularity until his entire catalog was back in print in numerous formats by 2013.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik is the first to introduce middle-eastern music of his kind. Abdul-malik's music is unique and introduces far beyond his time. One of the instruments he uses, (kanoon) has a very distinct sound. As he played the kanoon he expresses feelings like no other being. In addition, the Oud also has a distinct tones that only he can explain. One of the greatest joy of listening to Abdul-Malik's music is being able to go beyond and experience his moods. I really feel that if many people take the time to listen to his music, they would discover and unfold the hidden treasures of who they really are. Abdul-Malik's music speaks to you and communicates with your soul. Abdul-Malik's music is an example of how far the mind can travel. Even though he has passed on, the legacy still remains. Abdul-Malik left a message for us to carry on his journey. This is just a beginning.