by Ian Mann
October 13, 2017
A highly accomplished and very satisfying début with the three musicians finding much common ground and carving out a distinctive niche for themselves.
World Peace Trio
“World Peace Trio”
(Enja Records ENJ-9642 2)
World Peace Trio is an international collaboration between the Israeli born, London based multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon, Indonesian pianist Dwiki Dharmawan and the Kuwait born oud player and guitarist Kamal Musallam. The group name is derived from Dharmawan’s already extant World Peace Orchestra.
The idea of bringing these three musicians, all established band-leaders in their own right, together came from Leonardo Pavkovic, founder of the MoonJune record label for whom Dharmawan records. The trio were invited to perform at two Indonesian festivals during 2015, the Kota Tua Jazz Festival in Jakarta and the Bali World Music festival. The success of these appearances encouraged the trio to document their music on disc and this eponymous début album was recorded at two separate studio sessions in Jakarta and Bali before being mixed and mastered in London prior to release on the Munich based Enja label. This is a genuine ‘world record’.
Of the album’s eight tracks five are jointly composed by the trio and there are also arrangements of pieces by Atzmon and Duke Ellington plus the traditional Palestinian song “Ramallah”. The music is influenced by the sounds of jazz, Middle Eastern music, Indonesian Gamelan, flamenco and more. Dharmawan is credited with playing piano and synthesisers, Atzmon with clarinet, soprano saxophone and electronics and Musallam with oud, guitars and midi guitar. The album also includes contributions from guest musicians Ade Rudiana (kendang), Nasser Salameh (frame drum) and Asaf Sirkis (kit drums).
The sound of Atzmon’s unaccompanied clarinet ushers in the jointly composed “Morning Mist”, soon joined by the sound of Musallam’s oud and the exotic percussive sounds of Salameh’s frame drum. There’s a predominately Middle Eastern / North African sound about this piece with the haunting wail of Atzmon’s clarinet interacting effectively with Musallam’s oud as Salameh provides additional colour and rhythmical impetus.
The traditional Palestinian song “Ramallah” becomes a ten minute epic that combines Middle Eastern and Indonesian influences. Dharmawan’s piano is integrated into the arrangement while the rhythmic drive comes from Rudiana’s kendang, a two headed drum closely associated with Gamelan music. Musallam’s virtuoso oud playing fulfils both a melodic and rhythmic function and he combines well with Rudiana to propel the music forward. Atzmon and Dharmawan also link up well before the pair trade clarinet and piano solos with Rudiana providing a consistent rhythmic pulse. The subtle use of electronics allows Atzmon to produce a high pitched whistle from his clarinet, a distinctive sound not entirely dissimilar to that of the modern EWI (electronic wind instrument).
A passage of solo piano from Dharmawan introduces “The Seeker”, another lengthy piece but this time featuring the core trio. The pianist’s left hand carries out much of the rhythmic duties here as Musallam takes the first solo on oud followed by Atzmon on clarinet, his sound still unmistakably Middle Eastern and becoming increasingly impassioned as the tune accelerates. Dharmawan is given greater freedom in the later stages of the tune, soloing above Atzmon’s circling clarinet motif before the three musicians coalesce thrillingly towards the close.
“Peace And Beyond”, effectively the title track, introduces an appropriate element of serenity with Atzmon’s breathy clarinet underpinned by the sound of Musallam on guitar plus Sirkis’ delicate drum and cymbal embellishments. Dharmawan adds shimmering electric piano. Atzmon’s playing later becomes more urgent and impassioned and later still Musallam’s midi guitar takes flight underpinned by Sirkis’ insistent rhythms.
Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” is one of the pieces tackled by Atzmon’s regular working group, the Orient House Ensemble, on their recent album “The Spirit Of Trane”. The way in which World Peace Trio approach the song is thrillingly different as they relocate the famous melody to the Far East in an innovative arrangement featuring piano, synth, clarinet and kendang with a lustrous duet between clarinet and piano mid tune.
Atzmon’s tune “Ghaza Mon Amour” originally appeared on the 2015 Orient House Ensemble album “The Whistle Blower” as a tune combining elements of Middle Eastern music with the ‘spiritual jazz’ of John Coltrane. Here a greater influence is placed on the Middle Eastern components with Musallam’s oud prominent in an arrangement given a driving rhythmic urgency by the constant driving presence of Rudiana’s kendang. Dharmawan delivers a terrific piano solo in a highly percussive, almost Cecil Taylor-ish manner and there’s also some uncredited vocal chanting. Atzmon’s reeds are electronically treated and radically distorted on a coruscating solo before Musallam’s oud takes over once more. It’s heady, exhilarating stuff.
The brief “Anecdote” calms things down temporarily with an opening passage featuring the gentle twinkling of unaccompanied piano. But Dharmawan quickly progresses to thunderous low end rumbling as Atzmon’s reeds evoke the sounds of a human cry, specifically an infant’s wail.
The piece acts as something of an overture for the closing “Dawn” with its unaccompanied oud intro and subsequent oud and clarinet dialogue. Dharmawan’s piano is then added to the piece as the trio engage in a series of leisurely exchanges over the course of the eleven minute track. It sometimes lacks the focus, dynamism and variety of the earlier pieces and rather overstays its welcome. Nevertheless it ends the record on a calm, elegiac note wholly in keeping with the name of the group.
Overall this is a highly accomplished and very satisfying début with the three musicians (and their guest percussionists, who all make significant contributions) finding much common ground and carving out a distinctive niche for themselves. Inevitably it’s a recording that will sound exotic to Western European and American ears but there is much here for the open minded listener to enjoy.
Every record featuring the remarkably prolific Gilad Atzmon is almost guaranteed to contain something of interest and his large British fan-base should appreciate the music of World Peace Trio, who toured briefly in the UK earlier in 2017.
I’m indebted to Gilad for providing me with a review copy of the album when we met at an (excellent) Orient House Ensemble performance at the Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny in September.blog comments powered by Disqus