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Edgy, Trippy, Dubwise Middle Eastern Grooves From Taichmania

Israeli group Taichmania take edgy Middle Eastern themes and mash them up with synthesizers, occasional rock instrumentation and trippy electronics that often descend into woozy dub. Their album Seventh Heaven is streaming at Bandcamp.

The opening number, Arabesk has a gracefully sweeping, poignantly microtonal Egyptian orchestral theme teleported to the digital age with techy trip-hop textures and a searching ney flute solo from Itzhak Ventura. Yaniv Taichman’s bitingly tasty chromatic saz lute ripples over Yoni Meltzer’s bass synth and wry portamento textures in the dubby See Ya at Six or Seven. By contrast, there isn’t any discernible Middle Eastern melody in the slowly waltzing squiggles and pulses of Hashual Manar.

The album’s title track is a trickily rhythmic blend of jaggedly bubbly saz and sweeping synth orchestration, Lior Ozeri’s bass looping a Mission Impossible theme riff; they take it out with a lingering saz solo as the rhythm drops out. In Saba, the group run Taichman’s clangy Turkish axe through a mixer for wafting echoes, then through a wah as Sharon Petrover’s drums shift to a slower, syncopated martial beat.

A lively pizzicato violin loop joins the circling morass of Rumorizit, then this special guest picks up his bow for plaintive swoops, dives and shivers. Gorgeously bittersweet saz rings out over spare, syncopated bass in Samai as warpy atmospherics pass through the sonic picture.

Tribe has echoes of electric Balkan Romany jazz, a booming bass solo and an unexpected qawwali beat emerging from the shadows. Martian Party is the album’s funniest track, with a New Order quote and a strutting disco beat. The band close with a lickety-split circle dance, Caprice. Fans of the New York Gypsy All-Stars and other acts who electronicize haunting Middle Eastern sounds, like the Spy From Cairo, will dig this album.

Two Rare New York Shows by Magically Chameleonic Israeli Singer Victoria Hanna

Singer Victoria Hanna has built a career as one of Israel’s most individualistic and magically protean vocalists. She draws on centuries of Middle Eastern music as well as the avant garde and more commercial dancefloor sounds. Her lyrics often explore ancient mystical themes; her evocative, protean voice transcends linguistic limitations. You don’t have to speak Hebrew to fall under her spell. The last time anybody from this blog was in the house at one of her performances was way back in the zeros, when she electrified a sold-out crowd at Tonic on the Lower East Side with a couple of cameos at a Big Lazy album release show. Since that iconic noir cinematic group very seldom uses vocals, that they would choose Hanna to sing with them speaks for itself.

Hanna is at the Bronx Museum of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse on April 25 at 6 PM in conjunction with the opening for new exhibits by Oded Halahmy and Moses Ros. Admission is free but a ravp is required; take the B to 167th St. Then the next day, April 26 she’s making a very rare Brooklyn appearance on April 26 at 7 PM with Gershon Waiserfirer on electric oud and trombone at the first special event in Luisa Muhr’s fascinating Women Between Arts series at the Arete Gallery, 67 West St. in Greenpoint. The closest train is the G at Greenpoint Ave; cover is $25.

Hanna’s long-awaited debut album is streaming at her music page. The instrumentation is usually very spare – occasional strings, brass and percussion. The songs are a mix of upbeat, new wave-tinged dance numbers, with occasional windswept ambience. The first track, Aleph- Bet (Hoshana) is both characteristically playful and unsettling. It’s a Hebrew alphabet rhyme that also references ancient Jewish numerology. Hanna’s multitracked, processed voice takes on both techy outer-space and otherworldly Middle Eastern cadences over former Big Lazy drummer Tamir Muskat’s shamanistic, echoey beats – if Bjork was Middle Eastern, she might sound something like this

The second track, 22 Letters revisits that theme over a funky, minimalist habibi pop groove. That grows a lot slinkier in Orayta, a catchy, bouncy, similarly spare devotional hymn spiced with spare, echoey synth and spiky buzuq riffs. Hanna infuses Sheharhoret (Brown-haired Girl) with a misterioso, coyly conspiratorial energy, her melismatic delivery part levantine, part Bollywood.

Ani Yeshena (Sleeping But My Heart Is Awake) is a surreal mashup of a stately klezmer dirge, Balkan brass music and catchy new wave pop. Hanna follows with the wistfully hazy, atmospheric Kala Dekalya (The Voice of All the Voices) and Hayoshevet Baganim (Sitting in the Garden), the latter with airy accordion and echoes of north Indian ghazals.

In contrast with the song’s spacious rainy-day piano, Hanna’s voice is both more hopeful and tender throughout Shaarei Tziyon, a duet. With its lush string ambience, Yonati (My Dove) brings to mind the terse art-songs of Tunisian chanteuse Emel Mathlouthi. The album’s final and most haunting track is the majestically crescendoing grey-sky tableau Asher Yarzar. Fans of all of Hanna’s many influences, from classical Indian to Middle Eastern to dance music should get to know her.

A High-Voltage, Auspicious Kickoff to the Global Beat Festival Downtown

This weekend’s three-day Global Beat Festival in the financial district got off to an exhilarating start last night. There’s a ton of great music coming out of Israel lately, exemplified by the US debut of Libyan Jewish cantorial revivalists the Libyans. Insspired by his cantor father, bandleader and oud player Yaniv Raba has rescued centuries-old melodies and devotional poetry….and then he and the band rock the hell out of them. Frontman Dvir Cohen Eraki intoned them in a sonorous baritone, occasionally indulging in a thrilling, melismatic, improvisational intro. Raba, kanun player Ariel Kassus, bassist Yankale Segal and ney flute player Itzhak Ventura also got to kick off the songs with carefully crescendoing improvisations that hinted at the ecstasy that would sometimes come later.

The sounds ran the gamut of North Africa and the Middle East, a potent reminder of how music from that part of the world continues to come full circle: six hundred years ago, it was next to impossible to tell what was Jewish and what was Berber or Arabic, with everybody borrowing from everybody else. The group opened on a stately note with a lingering, vamping theme, pretty much everybody in the band doubling each others’ lines over Roei Fridman’s tersely hypnotic hand drumming. As the show went on, the group went into trip-hop (or maybe more accurately, a rai rhythm) for a couple of numbers. The energy peaked with a trio of slinky, bitingly modal anthems that echoed classical Egyptian music. The best of these was an original by Raba, featuring a suspenseful oud solo that mined the lowest registers of that ancient, otherworldly instrument.

Washington, DC’s Feedel Band opened their set with a long, psychedelically echoing Fender Rhodes electric piano solo from bandleader Araya Woldemichael before the eight-piece Ethiopian groove band joined him, their tight three-piece horn section – Ben Hall on trombone, Feleke Hailu on alto sax and Moges Habte on tenor sax – carrying the austere, broodingly minor-key hook that made something of a contrast with the undulating, percussive drive underneath. Other than Woldemichael, Habte got the only other extended solo of the night for this band and made the most of it, adding a darkly bluesy edge to the austere melody that probably predated it by a thousand years or more.

The songs alternated between long, dynamically rich dancefloor grooves and almost minimalist, 70s-tinged hard funk numbers, guitarist Mehary Mehreteab adding the occasional wry wah-wah interlude, contrasting with the resonance of krar lute player Minale Bezu and the keening mesenko fiddle of Seteng Atenaw (who brought two different axes, one with a much scrapier, scarier tone). A parade of dancers, three women and two men made their entrance throughout the show, illustrating what could have been ancient courtship rituals and hunting myths. After spending most of the show in acidic, minor-key modes, the group ended on a more carefree note with what was basically a long, extended one-chord jam with plenty of solos for both the band and the dancers.

The festival continues tonight, May 8 at 8 with intense Tunisian-born chanteuse Emel Mathlouthi – who’s most recently been putting her own spin on classic Arabic diva balladry – and then lushly enveloping Canadian-based Persian song reinventors Niyaz. Then on Saturday night, May 9 at 8 there’s rare Honduran twinbill with surf rocker Guayo Cedeno & Coco Bar and then Garifuna guitar legend Aurelio & the Garifuna Soul Band. The concert is free, but it won’t hurt to get there early if you want a seat. Logistically, your best and fastest bet is to go straight down Vesey St. and hang a left into the World Trade Center Path station, then follow the corridor to the right, around the bend, under the West Side Highway and then up into the “winter garden” across the street with its stage in the center of the building’s west wall.

Ester Rada Plays One of This Summer’s Most Interesting Shows at Madison Square Park

What’s the likelihood that an Ethiopian-born Israeli singer would have internalized oldschool American soul, funk and jazz to the point where she could pass for a star in any of those styles from the 60s or 70s? Ester Rada is exactly that. Her concert earlier this summer at Madison Square Park with her brilliant Israeli band revealed her every bit as adept at her native Ethiopiques as well as a whole bunch of western idioms. After an intro medley from Rada’s dynamic six-piece group –  three-piece horn section, lead guitar, keys, bass and drums – spanning from Ethiopian to American funk, she launched into a wryly catchy ba-BUMP soul tune punctuated by tersely growling baritone sax and ringing guitar riffs. Throughout the set, Rada sang in perfect English in a resonant, measured, dynamic alto, rising and falling with a constant sense of suspense.

She followed with a slinky, moodily vamping, minor-key Bill Withers-tinged anthem that picked up steam ominously as it went along. The band took the next tune from Afrobeat to pulsing roots reggae in seconds flat and then very subtly brought it back to middle ground between a summery, rootsy groove and a frenetic 1970s-style Nigerian club theme. The tenor sax player gave a briskly strolling Ethiopiques number a long, lithely spiraling, apprehensively dancing, Middle Eastern-flavored intro before Rada picked it up with an indomitable, nonchalantly insistent Amharic vocal. Mysterious cinematic, bass-driven pedalpoint gave way to a wickedly catchy, backbeat-driven anthem that hit an unexpected and wickedly fiery Ethiopiques crescendo at the end.

Rada reinvented Nina Simone’s Four Women as a brooding tune that moved uneasily between clave funk and a soaringly dancing African bounce that went doublespeed as it wound up. She paired off dramatic vocals with blippy Baba O’Reilly keys on the Afrobeat number that followed – there was a psychedelic aspect to a lot of the show, and this was the peak. The concert followed a familiar trajectory of call-and-response with the crowd, band intros, expansively funky jamming and a return to oldschool soul and otherworldly Ethiopian riffage at the end.

Let’s hope for another NYC engagement from Rada sooner than later, notwithstanding all the troubles in Israel. The next Madison Square Park concert is tonight at 7 PM featuring one of New York’s most energizing jambands, charismatic singer Arleigh Kincheloe and her group Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.

Avishai Cohen Brings His Pensive, Mysterious Middle Eastern Jazz to Highline Ballroom

[republished from Lucid Culture, New York Music Daily’s jazz and classical annex]

Avishai Cohen is on a roll. The Israeli jazz bassist specializes in moody, often haunting compositions which draw equally on Middle Eastern and western classical music as well as jazz. Like another brilliant Israeli jazz bassist, Omer Avital, Cohen has gone deeper into the Middle East lately, although Cohen takes less of the spotlight than Avital typically does, and tends to be more compositionally than improvisationally-inclined. His most recent album, Almah is a blend of Middle Eastern and contemporary classical music and features both oboe and a string quartet. Like Cohen’s two previous efforts, Duende and Aurora, the lineup also includes brilliant third-stream pianist Nitai Hershkovits, who’s joining Cohen along with drummer Daniel Dor for a trio show at Highline Ballroom on June 22 at 8 PM; tix are $30.

Over Cohen’s past three albums, you can see a trajectory unfold and a distinctive, individualistic style continue to evolve. Cohen’s intimate, straightforward, emotionally direct songs without words often take on a Spanish tinge throughout Aurora, which is basically a trio album featuring Shai Maestro on piano with occasional oud from Amos Hoffman and vocalese from Karen Malka. There are plenty of tricky time signatures, generous amounts of rubato, and dynamics galore. Duende, a duo album with Hershkovits, is more rhythmic, swings more and relies more on blues-based tradition rather than the apprehensive chromatics of Aurora – other than the gorgeous theme-and-variations that comprise the former’s opening tracks. Almah has a starkly orchestrated overture, a little minimalist indie classical, austerely rhythmic Arabic melodies, an uneasy lullaby, a couple of bracingly acerbic, chromatically-fueled waltzes, and a bitingly rhythmic, rather ferocious piano feature for Hershkovits that might be its strongest track.

Since Cohen is playing this show with the trio, you can most likely expect lots of stuff from the two older albums and maybe material from even earlier. Settle in, wait for the lights to go down and let the suspense begin.

Israeli Guitarist Dudu Tassa Brings Rare Iraqi-Influenced Rock Sounds to NYC

Israeli guitarist Dudu Tassa and his band the Kuwaitis play intense original rock songs influenced by ancient Iraqi Jewish melodies, drawing on his own Iraqi ancestry (his grandfather and uncle, the Daoud Brothers, were a popular act in pre-WWII Iraq, but were driven from the country in 1951). Tassa is a considerably more interesting guitarist than your typical rock lead player, eschewing long bluesy solos for elegant broken chords, darkly resonant chromatic vamps and even the occasional unexpected departure into indie opaqueness. The band’s lineup is a standard rock power trio bolstered by an Iraqi classical ensemble with lutes, percussion and strings. The result is often absolutely haunting – in a lot of ways, they’re doing the same thing with Iraqi music that Rita is with her Iranian roots. As striking and original as this band’s sound is, it’s a throwback to many centuries ago when Jewish and Arabic folk music was pretty much one and the same. Tassa and band make a rare US appearance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage downtown at 36 Battery Place (just north and west of Battery Park) on March 12 at 7 PM; tix are $35/$30/stud/srs.

Tassa’s latest album with this band is his eighth, testament to the eternal popularity of Arabic-influenced music in Israel (as with country and blues music in this hemisphere, it’s considered rootsy and therefore cool). The opening track is a Middle Eastern dancefloor groove, but with screaming guitar, heavy drums, ney flute and baglama lute plinking quietly up to a suspenseful interlude where the flute takes a long solo up to another majestic peak. The second cut opens with a trilling joza fiddle solo, then the band comes in and makes a snarling, richly tuneful, memorably uneasy 6/8 rock anthem out of it, buoyed by the lushness of the string section as it winds out.

Track three (songs titles and vocals are in either Hebrew or Arabic) starts out with a biting late 80s indie feel and hits a more Middle Eastern groove as it goes along, with a stark joza solo midway through. The fourth cut begins with a scampering oud solo and works a hypnotic one-chord groove with microtonal flute and surrealistically flitting accents from the rest of the ensemble. After that, the group puts a rustically galloping spin on a more contemporary Arabic dancefloor pop tune, then Tassa sings a warmly low-key folk-pop ballad for just electric guitars and voice.

The seventh track blends bossa nova, flamenco and the Middle East, tersely incisive trumpet lines floating over the string section. After that, the band blasts through another haunting one-chord chromatic orchestral romp with a long guitar-joza duel out. They keep the bracing Levantine ambience going, the orchestra going full steam and then winding down to a pizzicato string loop and another judiciously crescendoing trumpet solo. Track ten takes an unexpected detour into rather peevish downstroke indie guitar rock, then adds strings for an unexpected majesty: indie ELO? The album ends with a catchy, upbeat, rustic folk number for oud, strings, voice and percussion. The operative question is where, other than onstage north of Battery Park, this album can be heard. Not on Spotify, although many of the tracks are streaming at Tassa’s site, and there are a couple at the band’s publicists’ site as well.

Accordionist Uri Sharlin Mashes up Balkan, Brazilian and Israeli Sounds

Uri Sharlin is one of the first-call accordionists in several New York scenes, from folk to jazz to Balkan music. This evening he and his jazz-inclined Balkan/Brazilian band the DogCat Ensemble played an energetic, dynamic set of instrumentals at the Lincoln Center atrium from their forthcoming album Back to the Woods (which is available now if you go to one of their shows) . True to Balkan tradition, the Israel-born Sharlin loves rhythms that are considered exotic in the west: the group would do a couple of bars in twelve, then they’d sneak one in eleven instead. He also has a passion for south-of-the equator sounds, the most exotic of these being Monte Verde, a jungly Costa Rican rainforest tableau that the band opened and then closed on a droll note, playing birdcalls on little whistles, Sharlin leading the band into a warmly tropical theme with washes of chords from his accordion.

He has chops that can be spectacular, but in this band he leaves the pyrotechnics to the rest of the group. Matt Darriau’s sizzling, apprehensively trilling first solo on clarinet on the moodily pulsing, nuevo tango-inflected encore, Night Swim, was one of them, bassoonist Gili Sharett maintaining the suspense and tension as he took the handoff. Guitarist Kyla Sanna lit up the opening theme, another tango-inflected tune set to a trickily dancing rhythm, with a long solo that rose from edgy jangle to knife’s-edge intensity. Bassist Jordan Scannella would occasionally swoop up into a brief cloudburst of chords when he wasn’t providing a fat pulse in tandem with drummer John Hadfield and percussionist Rich Stein, who alternated between a couple of boomy clay pots (and soloed on them at one point during the lively, sunny, tropical Don Quixote), shakers and a big standup tapan bass drum.

The group took a couple of diversions into tersely playful free jazz on a version of Brazilian multi-instrumentalist composer Hermeto Pascoal’s Dia #342, then flew into darker Balkan terrain on the wings of Darriau’s bass clarinet and Sanna’s guitar on One for Frankie. They took vivid daytime and nighttime snapshots of a balmy, mellow northern Brazilian seaside town, Mundau, first with Sanna leading the way, calm and methodical on acoustic guitar, then with Sharlin switching to piano for an allusively furtive, jazzier nocturne that picked up steam as it went along. The catchiest tune of the night was The Real DogCat, a somber roots reggae tune set to yet another odd tempo with dub-like effects from the percussion toward the end. They ended the set with a joyously dancing, bubbly Brazilian tune, Baio, the drummer swinging a clave beat, bassoon paired off against the bass clarinet and guest Itai Kriss’ flute all the way up to a droll trick ending. All of these songs are on the album, which has a similarly energetic, live sound; Sharlin’s next gig is at Barbes on Oct 23 at 8 with classical mandolinist Avi Avital.

High-Voltage Israeli-Americana Cross-Pollination from Lily Henley

In her own individualistic way, violinist/singer Lily Henley encapsulizes the two most happening sounds coming out of New York right now: Americana and gypsy music. But what she writes isn’t either straight-up country or gypsy music. Her Americana songs often reflect her New England Conservatory training. Her darker, more Middle Eastern tinged material draws on her immersion in Sephardic music – she credits a three-year stay in Tel Aviv as being transformative. She’s playing the final show of her Tuesday night residency at Pete’s Candy Store on April 30 at 10 PM. As is the case with pretty much any good musician who bridges two musical worlds, she has a deep address book to draw from and varies her supporting cast from week to week. Her new album Words Like Yours has purist production from Omer Avital, another eclectic player, who made a name for himself as a jazz bassist before embracing his Middle Eastern roots and taking up the oud.

The lineup on Henley’s album is characteristically diverse: Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass, the Deadly Gentlemen’s Dominick Leslie on mandolin and mandola, Duncan Wickel on five-string fiddle and Tony Trischka collaborator Jordan Tice on acoustic guitar. The opening track, Two Birds immediately sets the tone, the doomed foreshadowing of its flight metaphors set to tricky metrics and spiky mandolin, Henley’s powerful voice soaring as the absolutely gorgeous, anthemic chorus kicks in. She adds extra intensity to the traditional Sephardic song Dark Girl via biting Celtic violin riffage. Hummingbird builds matter-of-factly toward a bittersweet, blues-tinged Appalachian vibe, while the Sephardically-toned Her Song, like the opening track, rises energetically but uneasily to a singalong chorus and then a nimble, chromatically-fueled guitar solo from Tice.

Pink Rose, with its moody layers of violin and meticulously melismatic vocals, is the most otherworldy, Balkan-sounding song here – yet when Henley raises her voice on the second chorus, she evokes a young Dolly Parton. Only Once is a “R&B” song in disguise: trade the acoustic instruments for cheesy computerization and it would be pretty indistinguishable for something you’d hear in a shopping mall. The album ends with Bluz Kna’ani, a bitter, crescendoing anthem by Israeli songwriter Ehud Banai that winds up as an Irish dirge. Folks, this is the future of music: are we living in a golden age or what?

Rita Shifts the Paradigm at the United Nations

“Only dreamers can do changes in the world,” Israeli rock star Rita reminded the crowd as she exited the stage after an exhilarating, politically radical, hourlong set for a private audience seemingly composed of dignitaries, their guests and a scattering of media at the United Nations General Assembly hall last night. Her English may have been slightly fractured, but she left no doubt in the tone of her voice. Rita is as big in Israel as Madonna was at the peak of her popularity here in the US; she is just as popular in Iran. Her dream: peace in the Middle East. On one hand, the pressure on her to cave in to partisan politics must be enormous, especially for someone whose family escaped a brutally repressive regime in her native Iran for the democracy of Israel when she was eight. On the other hand, she refuses to give up on that dream. Last night marked the historic occasion that a performer had ever sung in both Persian and Hebrew on the same night at the UN, but it also might have been the first time that anyone ever spoke those two languages side by side in public there. To see ten Israelis onstage singing lustily in Persian – the langauge of their country’s sworn enemy – was radical to the extreme. And this was with the blessing of the Israeli ambassador, who acceded that it had always been his “dream to open for Rita,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described Rita as “A reminder of the role of music to transcend cultures, build bridges and connect people. Instead of global hegemony, global harmony!”

And the audience ate it up! They seemed to know all the words, whether or in Persian or Hebrew, sang along, and by the end of the show there was a lively circle of dancers gathered at the front of the stage. This wasn’t some small posse of peaceniks from the kibbutz hanging out in a cramped Tel Aviv basement: the auditorium was packed with a mainstream, monied Israeli crowd. Nor was the music bland, tepid pop: in Israel, Rita may be top 40, but her band’s closest American musical equivalent is Gogol Bordello. Laughable as it may seem, from an American perspective, to imagine such a cutting-edge, haunting blend of Middle Eastern folk themes and epic art-rock as Rita plays getting airplay on commercial radio, it’s an everyday thing in Israel. That general, mainstream listeners would not only accept but embrace this music makes the idea of dropping bombs on the people of Israel, or the people of Iran, all the more repulsive. Rita self-effacingly hinted more than once that she would have liked to be singing something other than love songs, but it didn’t matter: her message couldn’t have been more clear, or vividly shared.

About the music: it was brilliant. The concert began with a long, plaintively crescendoing improvisation played by Mark Eliyahu on the Persian  kamancheh fiddle over an ominous keyboard drone – this is not how Madonna starts her shows. It finally picked up with a lush majesty over a swaying dance beat and in a split second the crowd was clapping along. The show ended with Yeladem Zim Sincha (Children Are a Joy), a feral gypsy-rock romp completely at odds with its saccharine title, the band exploding out of a biting Galia Hai viola solo midway through. In between, Rita alternated between her Hebrew-language hits and the vintage Iranian songs on her most recent album My Joys. The most exhilarating solo moment of the night belonged to Jonathan Dror, playing shivery microtones on a genuine rams-horn shofar on the introduction to Hachnisini Tachat Knafech (Under Your Wing), Rita adding her own spine-tingling, chromatically-charged vocalese solo. She gave energetic vocal cameos to rapidfire accordionist Ariel Alaev and eclectically fiery guitarist Ofer Koren; Dror also energized the crowd with his dance moves late in the set. The biggest hit with the crowd, predictably, was Shah Doomad (The Groom King), an ecstatic but rather ferocious wedding song: this guy is something to be reckoned with! To paraphrase what Edward Said said long ago, there is no discrete, exclusionary Middle Eastern culture: there is only Orientalism. As Rita made defiantly clear, it is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Iran: we are all in this together, with her. And who wouldn’t want to be?

Dusky Grooves from the Toure-Raichel Collective

Desert blues albums are best enjoyed as a whole. Sure, you can break the individual tracks up and scatter them amongst different playlists, but a good desert blues album sets a mood. The Toure-Raichel Collective’s new album The Tel Aviv Session is a different kind of desert blues album, a collaboration between pyrotechnic Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure and Israeli keyboardist/bandleader Idan Raichel. Raichel is an insatiably omnivorous player who seemingly never met a style he didn’t want to master; Toure admits to thinking at first that Raichel was a “crazy hippie,” but on this generally low-key, daylong collaboration in an Israeli recording studio, the two make a good team. Although he plays acoustic guitar here, Toure still has the restless, uneasy edge that makes him such a compelling electric player. Raichel shows off a potent understanding of chromatically-fueled, Arabic-tinged motifs, often playing with a rippling staccato feel that, especially when he mutes the strings inside the piano, evokes the sound of a balafon or a qanun. In one passage, he brushes the strings for shimmery, harplike glissandos. Behind them, bassist Yossi Fine – who has toured with Toure, mentored Raichel in his early years and may ultimately have been responsible for jumpstarting this session – plays endlessly hypnotic loops in tandem with percussionist Souleymane Kane. French jazz harmonica player Frederic Yonnet guests on a rustic 1920s flavored blues jam that evokes Hazmat Modine in a particularly boisterous mood; Yankale Segal, from Raichel’s touring band, adds a third layer of richly glistening textures on Iranian tar lute on another. And the final cut, where the band finally cuts loose with an all-too-brief, soaring crescendo, features haunting, intense kamancheh (Iranian spiked fiddle) by Mark Eliyahu.

The rest of the album alternates between slinky two-chord desert blues vamps, and Middle Eastern piano music, sometimes in the same jam. Toure reveals a fondness for open chords and a biting facility for raga-like passages; Raichel often mimics Toure’s quicksilver hammer-on attack. Most of the songs here are long, slowly and casually coalescing out of themes typically introduced by the guitar. When Raichel supplies the central riff, Toure responds with fluttering, muted chromatics of his own, or simply steers the jam south toward Mali. The album liner notes mention “frequent breaks for coffee;” one suspects that there were other aromas wafting through the studio that day. The most hypnotic track, a lush, warmly major-key cut that brings to mind the Stones’ Moonlight Mile is followed by a brief, rather impatient, upbeat cut driven by Toure. Then they follow that with the single most hypnotic cut, featuring Raichel on Fender Rhodes, adding a vibraphone-like rhythmic bounce against Kane’s boomy calabash. It’s out now on Cumbancha; fans of desert blues, Middle Eastern music and intelligent jam bands ought to check it out. And it goes without saying: this collaboration between a Muslim African and an Israeli Jew underscores the argument that if we took the rabbis and mullahs (and American agitators) out of the picture and left everything to the musicians, there would be no war in the Middle East.