Boomkat Product Review:
Recorded in Heliopolis Egypt between 1968 and 1973, 'Egyptian Jazz' sees the seamless knitting of cultural maxims - with the musical traditions of the North Arabian region of Africa overlapping Western jazz to intoxicating effect. Proper headmelt this one.
Given the interconnected world in which we now live, it's becoming an increasingly rare commodity for any music to remain under the radar longer than it takes for the Youtube algorithm to fling things your way. Yet whilst access to such vast tributaries of music is undoubtedly a good thing, it can take the fun out of hunting down long lost gems and bijou classics - with everything long dissected and consumed by the broiling blog community. It therefore comes with great pleasure to introduce a genuine find that will have your ears blossoming with dusty joy, as Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band create the kind of music which is vital, immediate and swelling with energy and scope.
Chief of the Military Music Department, Salah Ragab had at his disposal a vast retinue of musicians (almost 3,000!) all versed in the aural language of marches and national anthems, but with little knowledge of the more fluid aspects of contemporary jazz. From this foundation Ragab went on to carve a sound that is at once familiar and completely alien, using his own skills on the drums to inform and sculpt the vivacious music on offer.
Unreasonably broad in its scope, the twenty-five or so musicians involved were essentially anointed full-time jazz mercenaries by the military top-brass. Intuitive and dripping in talent, the opening 'Ramadan In Space Time' sets out their stall perfectly - as a traditional Baza drum rattles into life and soon becomes engulfed by stomping percussion and the kind of ribald horns that simultaneously combine upfront bluster and emotional nuance. 'Dawn' re-imagines a relihgious tract through a 6/8 rhythm and throbbing horns that raise the temperature in frenzied style.
From here the treats keep coming, with 'Neveen' (featuring Ragab's then six year old daughter on bass) bursting into life on top of a sparkling compote of traditional and New York-rooted percussion, 'Oriental Mood' looks to the far-east for inspiration, whilst 'Kleopatra' revolves around a flutter of horns and rhythms.
An unbridled pleasure from beginning to end. King Tut!