November 6, 2017
Golan Vol. 2
Ultrarack UT 1005
By Ken Waxman
More cosmopolitan than curious, French bassist Hubert Dupont’s idea is for his quintet to intertwine Arabic-rooted sounds with strands of improvised music. Golan does so by stripping away the tinge of exoticism, treating the Middle Eastern instruments and melodies no differently than if both were part of the Western canon. Having players flexible in both idioms helps. Besides Dupont, who has worked in many jazz formations, the band includes countryman clarinetist Matthieu Donarier with similar improvised music experience. Flutist Naïssam Jalal is French/Syrian, and she and Tunisian violinist Zied Zouari play jazz as well as traditional music. Meanwhile Palestinians, oud player Ahmad Al Khatib and percussionist Youssef Hbeisch, work both in Europe and the Middle East.
“Accept the Changes”, with its dual meaning title is a perfect example of this formula. Beginning with spiccato lines from the violinist that are quickly given jazz underpinnings by double bass strokes, a Maghreb-like rhythm from Hbeisch’s darbouka joins at the same time as contralto clarinet glissandi arrive as counter point. With cymbal slaps and conga-like raps added the piece crosses and re-crosses figurative borders without losing fluidity.
Themes expressed by various soloists include a flamenco-like showcase for Al Khatib’s oud on “Furatain” completed by sly contemporary plucking from Dupont, plus a harmonized clarinet and flute lilt on “Midday Promise” that suggest 17th Century Graz more than present day Gaza.
-For The Whole Note November 2017