Hassan Hakmoun

Gift of the Gnawa

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This is world fusion's true sound. A young, hip Gnawa sintir player here combines his expertise with a multi-national percussionist, a European ney player, and veteran free jazzer Don Cherry's pocket trumpet to create a soundscape that one cannot escape from. All this is done in New York City. The ney work here is perhaps the greatest contribution. The light tones wrap around all other features of the music when Richard Horowitz is playing to envelope the listener. Hakmoun's sintir playing is, of course, outstanding as well -- that's why he's the upstart Gnawa player producing an album (though other sintir players are also extremely well versed, including Brahim el Belkani, who has played with Led Zeppelin, among others). At times, the ethereal echoing of the music can become a bit cumbersome, but still not to the point of frustration. One of the real treats here could quite likely be Don Cherry's venerable trumpet. The chops and snippets he can emit fit perfectly into the whole, often à la Miles, but definitely related to his days with Ornette. For someone looking into the true nature of Gnawa ritual, this is not the place to go. For someone already familiar with the Gnawa brotherhood's music, this is an extremely enjoyable excursion into more groundbreaking forms. Pick it up as an interested listener, but perhaps not as a completely naïve newcomer.

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