Saxophonist David El-Malek is known in Europe for his work with keyboardist Pierre DeBethmann (Moutin Reunion Quartet), but stateside in the U.S., he has little name recognition. In the post-Michael Brecker era, El-Malek's contemporary neo-jazz style could not have prepared his fans for this recording, which has an overall hymnal quality while inserting dollops of various ethnic strains. This deep music should be listened to in its entirety, for it tells a story of history, mystery, and a sonic trek through the ages from a transcontinental standpoint. Help from trumpeter Youann Loustalot and bass clarinetist Thomas Savy in a five-horn front line further emphasizes the spirituality in the bottom end of this music. Whether in the ethno-funk beats of the regal "Antiochus IV" under El Malek's piquant soprano sax, the 7/8 dance of "Sion" featuring the leader's tenor, or the simple bass-filled sound of "Haggadah," the listener can understand this journey will be long and arduous, but steeped in trust and faith. The larger ensemble keeps the caravan moving inexorably onward for "Avinu Malenku, Pt. I/II" and the brilliant "Solomon's Temple" with the most distinct Middle Eastern focus. The trip ends with the celebratory "Dead Sea," hardly a dead end in a bass/percussion workout. Drones, repasts of prayer, and at times high drama in reserved tones are spotted, with the horns and El-Malek confidently reassuring a calm or peace coming. While removed from mainstream jazz, this is a satisfying recording best appreciated with the patience and virtue demonstrated to produce it.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos