Gilad Atzmon, an anti-Zionist Jew who was raised in Israel, made Exile as a political statement about Palestinian suffering and his belief in their right of return. With the help of an international cast of musicians (most of whom have been exiles in some form), he sets words from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish to a reinterpretation of the Israeli tune that was the anthem of the 1967 war ("Al-Quids"), uses a melody from the Israeli film Salach Sabati to make a statement about immigrants mistreating the indigenous population ("Ouz"), and renames an Eastern European ballad about a pogrom against the Jews to commemorate a Palestinian refugee camp that was devastated by the Israeli army ("Jenin"). Indeed, Atzmon's decision to name his band "the Orient House" (after the East Jerusalem office of the Palestinian Authority) is itself an indication that he wants to express a political message with his music. Fortunately, Exile is more than an exercise in polemics; whether or not you agree with his political views, the music itself is quite good. While there are times such as "Ouz" when Atzmon's music could be considered ironic, this isn't a political novelty record or postmodern parody; instead, Atzmon shows respect for and facility in the various musical styles that he explores on this album. Aided by such impressive talents as Palestinian singer Reem Kelani (whose haunting, mournful voice opens the album) and Tunisian oud player and vocalist Dhafer Youssef, as well as the fine musicians in his quartet (Frank Harrison on piano, Yaron Stavi replacing Oly Hayhurst on bass, Asaf Sirkis on drums, bandr, and tray, and Atzmon himself on soprano and alto sax and shabbaabeh flute), Atzmon combines Coltrane-influenced improvisation with Middle Eastern, Balkan, and other influences to create music that conveys his own sense of passion and yearning. The CD includes a video of "Epilogue" and liner notes with both English and French translations of the lyrics.
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AllMusic Review by Todd Kristel