May 12, 2006
Rabih Abou-Khalil/Joachim Kühn
Journey to the Centre of an Egg
Despite appearances, this is not one of those World Music love fests. Instead Journey to the Centre of an Egg tries for something rarer. Its eight tracks find common musical ground between Beirut-born oudist Rabih Abou-Khalil and Leipzig-born pianist Joachim Kühn.
The reason why much of the CD works is because the sound-view of both men has been informed by more influences beyond the obvious. In the Lebanese lute players case, its notated European and improvised music; for the German pianist, its traditional classical music and variations of jazz from acoustic mainstream to fusion. Luckily the last doesnt appear here, although there are times Kühns flashing octaves coupled with drum work from Jarrod Cagwin emphasize rock-like beats a bit too much.
Natwashe and Kadwasheh, the CDs almost 13½-minute centrepiece which adds second drummer Wolfgang Reisinger is most illustrative of the rapprochement. Built on rasgueado fills from the chordal instruments and ratamacues from the percussionists, the combination starts to resemble Spoonful, Willie Dixons stop-time blues, before the individuals solo. Kühn circulates exaggerated arpeggio runs and Abou-Khalil finger-picking snaps. Despite a section where the pianist introduces breathy, double-tongued alto saxophone fills, the tune rights itself to a satisfactory finale with the oud lines encompassing finger picking and near funk bass accents.
Many other places Kühns contrapuntal chording and Abou-Khalils guitar-like slurred fingering make frequent organic connections. These are reminders that the pianists Bill-Evans-out-of-J.S.-Bach formalism and the oud players mixture of flamenco-and-Arabic chords have a common bridge through Andalusia and the Maghreb. Un-clichéd, this is how improv-world fusion music should sound.
— Ken Waxman