al 'ud - the oud
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Recording Reviews:

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Here's a list of Arabic music recordings, as well as links to purchase them where available (click on the album covers). I've tried to focus on oud music, especially modern work with jazz musicians and traditional instrumental music. I've included some vocal music that I particularly recommend. "OOP" refers to out-of-print titles.


Anouar Brahem:


Brahem is a Tunisian ud player & composer, currently based in France. He has a sparse, contemplative style influenced by jazz and Western classical music.
  Thimar (ECM)
—Great record with jazz musicians John Surman (bass clarinet, saxophone) and Dave Holland (bass).
  Madar (ECM)
—With Jan Garbaraek (sax) and Shaukat Hussain (Indian tabla). The saxophone is a little too loud, overpowering the oud at some points.

Khomsa (ECM)
—Brahem's jazziest record, with a larger group than usual and some adventurous writing.

  Barzakh (ECM)
—More traditional record, with violin and percussion. Several solo 'ud pieces.
  Astrakan Café (ECM)
—Excellent. With Turkish clarinet virtuoso Barbaros Erköse.
  Conte de L'Incroyable Amour (ECM)
—Much like Astrakan Café, but add Kudsi Erguner on ney.
  Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM)
—Beautiful, haunting record with piano and accordian. Not really Arabic-sounding, but great music.

  Le Voyage de Sahar (ECM)
—Continues in the vein of Le Pas du Chat Noir, but less compelling to my ears.
 Shaheen is an outstanding 'ud and violin player and composer from Palestine. A master of traditional Arabic music.
  Music Of Mohamed Abdel Wahab (Axiom)
—Beautiful treatment of Abdel Wahab's music, with full chorus. Top-notch sound quality, produced by Bill Laswell. OOP
  Saltanah (Water Lily Acoustics)
—All improvised, with Indian slide guitar virtuoso V.M. Bhatt. Fantastic playing and crystal-clear recording quality.
  Blue Flame (Ark 21)
—Incorporates jazz and cuban/spanish elements. Excellent performances, mostly original compositions by Shaheen. With Bassam Saba on Ney and Jamey Haddad on percussion.
  Turath (CMP, reissued on Times Square Records)
—Very traditional, a must have. With Omar Faruk Tekbilek on ney.
  Taqasim (Lyrichord)
—With Jihad Racy. An incredible album of improvised duets. Shaheen plays 'ud, Racy plays buzuq throughout.


Rabih Abou-Kahlil:


Abou-Khalil is one of the first musicians to dedicate himself to combining jazz and oud. His work features lots of improvisation and intricate melodies, with frequent metric shifts.
  Odd Times (Enja)
—Live recording, some great moments. Includes Howard Levy on harmonica, which is not my favorite instrument in this music. I like the tuba, though.
  Roots & Sprouts (Enja)
—More traditional instrumentation than usual, with ney, violin, darbouka and riq. Some of his best work, IMO.
  Between Dusk & Dawn (Enja)
—Includes the great saxophonist Charlie Mariano & several great tunes.
  Blue Camel (Enja)
—One of his "jazziest" sounding records, with Kenny Wheeler (flugelhorn) and Charlie Mariano. One of my favorites.
  The Sultan's Picnic (Enja)
—Similar approach to Blue Camel, but with Howard Levy on harmonica.
  Arabian Waltz (Enja)
—With string quartet, tuba and percussion.
  Yara (Enja)
—Fantastic record with violin, 'cello, and percussion. Beautiful writing.
  Bukra (Enja)
—Uneven record; still, some nice compositions and a handful of high points. The bass is poorly recorded. Some interesting use of traditional muwashshah rhythms (14/4, 13/4).
—Slightly more focused and consistent than Bukra.


Ali Jihad Racy


Racy is a multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist from Lebanon,
currently based in Los Angeles. He is an excellent composer.
  Taqasim (Lyrichord)
—With Simon Shaheen. An incredible album of improvised duets. Shaheen plays 'ud, Racy plays buzuq throughout.
  Ancient Egypt
—Haunting, atmospheric record, with Racy playing many different instruments.
  Mystical Legacies
—Great record of duets with Souhail Kaspar (percussion). Racy plays Nay, violin, buzuq, and 'ud.
Joubran Brothers
The Joubran brothers (Samir & Wissam) are from Palestine and play 'ud.
—Beautiful record of 'ud duets, with percussion. Features both traditional and original compositions.


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