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Album Review

Tarab is an unusual album for the great Lebanese jazz composer and oud player in that it features no Western instruments or musicians, except for Glen Moore on the acoustic bass. The melody instruments are the nay (Arabic flute) played by the Syrian veteran Selim Kusur and, as always, Abou-Khalil on oud or Arabic lute (which more or less functions like the piano in a standard jazz quartet). Rounding out the group are Nabil Khaiat on frame drums and percussion, and Rameesh Shotham on South Indian drums and other percussion. Everyone but Kusur has worked at least semi-regularly with Abou-Khalil. (Kusur did play on Abou-Khalil's Roots & Sprouts, an earlier instance of an album with no Western instruments.) The lack of Western instrumentalists gives Tarab a less jazzy, more Arabic feeling than Abou-Khalil's other albums. Abou-Khalil builds his albums around his guest instrumentalists, so Tarab features the nay prominently, but even more, this is an album for the oud and for showing off the rhythm section. For example, on "In Search of the Well" there is actually a bass solo. And there are a few other pleasant surprises scattered throughout the album. On "Awakening," someone — just who is not credited — lets forth a string of bol singing, that rapid-fire, tongue-twisting Indian chant made famous in the West by Sheila Chandra. And on "Arabian Waltz," a jaw harp appears out of the blue , presumably played by Shotham, who plays it on Between Dusk and Dawn, accenting the fast-paced original version of what later became the more lush title track of the album Arabian Waltz. This last song is especially welcome for its strong melody, standing out on an album that certainly does not lack for atmosphere, but which would have benefited from greater tunefulness. Still, a very worthy effort, though not the best place to start one's Rabih Abou-Khalil collection, especially if one is coming from a jazz background.


Born: August 17, 1957 in Beirut, Lebanon

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The musical traditions of the Arabic world are fused with jazz improvisation and European classical techniques by Lebanese-born oud player and composer Rabih Abou-Khalil. The CMJ New Music Report noted that Abou-Khalil has "consistently sought to create common ground between the Arab music mileau of his roots and the more global musical world of today." Down Beat praised Abou-Khalil's music as "a unique hybrid that successfully spans the world of traditional Arabic music and jazz." Although he learned...
Full bio
Tarab, Rabih Abou-Khalil
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  • $8.91
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 1994

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