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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
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.
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. 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, 'Egyptian Jazz' is pin-point accurate in identifying the kernel of inspiration that grants a given composition its particular magic - with the twenty-five or so musicians involved granted the enviable position of full-time jazz mercenaries by the military top-brass. Intuitive and dripping in talent, the opening 'Ramadan In Space Time' sets out the forthcoming 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. Next up is the similarly addictive 'Dawn', wherein a religious tract is reimagined through a 6/8 rhythm and throbbing horns that will raise the temperature to well beyond humid in all but the coldest of souls.
From here the treats keep coming thick and fast, with 'Neveen' (featuring Ragab's then six year old daughter on bass) bursting into life atop a sparkling compote of traditional and New York-rooted percussion, 'Oriental Mood' looks to the far-east for inspiration, whilst 'Kleopatra' pays homage to the eponymous subject with a gorgeous flutter of horns and pattering rhythms. With an an obvious highpoint amongst an album of peaks being the joyful 'Egypt Stut', Salah Ragab and The Cario Jazz Band have crafted an album that is an unbridled pleasure from beginning to end. King Tut!