Sahib Shihab

And All Those Cats

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This is a terrific-sounding Italian compilation of sounds by Sahib Shihab, the great saxophonist and flutist who is criminally under-recognized for his contribution not only to the language of hard bop, but for his multi-dimensional look at world music and his influence on sou- jazz and the harder swinging big bands that recorded for MPS in the 1960s and '70s. A complete iconoclast, Shihab followed the beat of his own drummer and that is clearly on display here, in recordings compiled between 1964 and 1970, after he moved to Europe and hooked up with Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland, playing in their big band and smaller groups. The opener, "Set Up," flows in the last gasp of hard bop; beginning with the self-penned "Peter's Waltz," a seemingly innocent midtempo number, the proceedings are quickly transformed through Shihab's rootsy musical language, into a soul-jazz workout with a blues groove where loping lyric lines are actually lines based on the rhythm section's accents. "The End of a Love Affair," features Shihab on flute playing over a lithe bossa groove. Hand percussion and a sprightly melody are at the core of this exotic music. Rhythm & blues as well as hard-swinging bop flavor the more dynamic cuts, like his trademark "Om Mani Padme Hum" (just check Clarke's drumming here, it's outta sight!). There are gorgeous colors in "Campi's Idea," (named for studio engineer Gigi Campi) with the contrasting tone of Ake Persson's trombone, that never stray far from the blues even as they fold out of it into new harmonic terrain. The big fat honking funk (as in Horace Silver's use of the word) in "Stoned Ghosts," with killer trumpet fills from Benny Bailey, is a clear standout here, but of the album's 15 cuts, there isn't a weak moment in the bunch. Seek this one out.

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