Munir Bashir

Rhythms and Melodies

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As oud albums from a master go, this is quite a surprise. Recorded in 1987 in Baghdad, Bashir and four percussionists tackle a repertoire of mostly Western music. If you've never heard an oud play rock & roll, try "Rock of the Oud" to hear lines picked out and some very credible soloing. It's interesting, although it has to be said that an acoustic oud just doesn't have the impact of an electric guitar with a whammy bar. Elsewhere he runs through a very atmospheric version of "Johnny Guitar" where the melody echoes gorgeously, a take on the light classic "O Sole Mio" that's more redolent of dusty Persia than Roma, although the tune shines very brightly, and the film song "Amado Mio." It's a mixed bag indeed, one that goes far beyond Arab classicism, merging with Western sounds for a hybrid that shows a questing, modern mind. The centerpiece of the album, however, is "From Baghdad to Granada," a 25-minute journey through Arab and Andalusian music that's a masterwork of modes and improvisation. Bashir glitters throughout, and the percussionists provide a deep bed of support. It might not be what you'd expect, but in this case, that's a good thing.

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