Oud Vibrations. It’s a pun, you see? You do? Good. So, the fluff is that these are two of the earlier ventures by jazz hands into Arabic lands and this is a two LPs on one CD of two chaps who worked with Arabic stylings. There’s a faint sense that they’re both jazz sorts borrowing from Arabic ideas, but it’s essentially two fairly different records.
So, I’m sure everyone really enjoys the caveats around authenticity, but let’s ignore that momentarily – these were among the first ventures in the late ’50s and, while there’s mild intercessions of chintzy easy listening, there’s enough full-blooded material here to keep this CD away from the faffier side of your collection. Some of the tunes have Western tonality on Eastern instruments, some of them take an Arab-style motif and blow jazz lines over them, some of them are closer to a more studied synthesis of two (or more) worlds. If you like, it’s a good little exposition of what happens when a progressive and yet-unfixed tradition (the poppier end of jazz) meets a more formally closed one (classical maqam and Arabic pop).
I’ve been having a bit of a thing of late about standards and how some melodies might as well be made out of diamonds – you put them anywhere, you drown them in pigshit, and they still shine out and break your heart. Coltrane’s various versions of “My Favourite Things,” Roland Kirk’s “I say a little prayer,” that sort of thing. And here you’ve got “Over the Rainbow” and “My Funny Valentine” tastefully rendered as jazz-with-Eastern-flavours. And I’m of the strong and correct opinion that you simply cannot go wrong with “My Funny Valentine.” And this is a particularly languorous, exquisite and tactful version.
Split half-and-half, Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s side is perhaps further away from my tastes than Charles “Chick” Ganimian & His Orientals’ – but it’s far from unbearable. It does feel a bit like the pattern is ‘repetitious motif > exposition > solo > re-capitulation’ rather than assiduously studied integration of modes, but it works well as a series of pop vignettes – certainly lends the impression that it’d’ve come alive in the live setting, and the production is pretty pounding. The latter half – Chick Ganimian – feels like it’s got more teeth – the mordants are tight like Munir Bashir, the tonality thinks about which traditions it’s using and, frankly, “My Funny Valentine.” Swoon.
Definitely worth a punt if you’re interested in the precursors to the big hitters’ explorations in the East (J & A Coltrane, Davis) and will sit politely near the easy listening slice of a record collection pie. Something to dance to, something to swoon to, something to keep the parents happy. Swish.