THE ADVENTURES OF NABIL FAWZI
COLEMAN | YASSIN
Gene Coleman | bass clarinet
Raed Yassin | double bass
|01 | DAMN YOU SALAH | 07.15
02 | NADIM HILMI IS IN DANGER | 10.56
03 | A FUNNY DAY IN MOORE | 12.35
04 | RANDA'S ON THE PHONE | 09.44
05 | I WON'T GO TO AL-KAWKAB AL-YAWMI TODAY | 09.55
all music improvised by gene coleman and raed yassin
no cuts | no overdubbing
recorded on 9th of july 2005 at elektra av studio - ballouneh, lebanon
recorded and mastered by raymond khalifeh
artwork & design by mazen kerbaj
produced in lebanon by al maslakh
CD LINER NOTES
THE DIFFERENT FLAVORS OF BEIRUT
Beirut's Irtijal festival for experimental and free improvised music is proving itself over the years as the major platform for encounters between the east and the west. Many of the Lebanese musicians have already played in Europe and in the United States, in different groups and with all kinds of international players, but the "Irtijal" encounters have always a kind of special flavor to it. Even when it is not a gig encounter but rather a studio date like this one or a private recording session like the Rouba3i one (MSLKH CD 02), there is always a unique atmosphere to it both around the musicians and in the music.
One could say that these kinds of "energies" are due to the high concentration of musicians and events in one point in space and time, and it can be found in most of the free improv festivals around the world. This is undoubtedly true, but there is also the flavor of the city hosting the festival that has its influence. And when it comes to flavors, Beirut is definitely a worldwide top-ranking city.
This encounter between Lebanese multifaceted artist, actor and double bass player Raed Yassin and American bass clarinet player Gene Coleman is one great example of the "Beirut mood". The music takes its time to develop, and the musicians are in a totally relaxed, yet very focused, exchange; exactly like two friends chatting around a Turkish coffee at the unfashionable terrace of Kahwat Al Rawda. The complicity between the players is so strong that it gives the session an almost composed feel, first because of the evident matching between the two instruments, but also because the dialog is so intense that it forces each player to a very high concentration on what’s going on around to be able to respond with only valid arguments.
Mazen Kerbaj, May 2006
In this era of global extermination and progressive incapacity for a direct communication of our mutual feelings - which is absurd considering how powerful the means at our disposal are - a label like Al Maslakh shares an important role with other fundamental discographic realities (such as, for example, Creative Sources), namely the development of a pancultural improvisation lexicon that should always be a necessity, not a coincidence. The meeting between Coleman's bass clarinet and Yassin's double bass is a fulgid example of achievement of an excellent result in that sense. Comprising five accomplished duets, this record immediately determines its appeal through its intimate yet enthusiastic character, which gives this music an immediate spotlight for its inherent standards. The struggle for freedom is often defined by the quality of the energies that are put into it; in this occasion, Coleman and Yassin articulate their exchanges with serene consciousness, avoiding generic perceptions to deliver themselves from their own skills, which are enormous but get hold in the background, as opposed to the bright effervescence of a never aggressive communication between the parts. The perfect match between the frequencies of the two instruments is the icing on the cake, with the musicians applying a level-headed control on the percussive clatter and the harmonious buzzes they elicit at various times, yet not once they reiterate fixed patterns or manifest rigidity in their marvellous expression. It's a splendid album, a worthy representer of the high level of Mazen Kerbaj's label.
Massimo Ricci | Touching Extreme
As the theory goes, the world is currently engaged in a Clash of Civilizations, with culture and identity conflicts defining how different societies interact with each other, this interaction often ending in conflict. This theory has of course faced severe criticism and revision, but its echo lingers in the everyday media, as the supposed divide between the West and the Muslim world rears its head near daily.
It's a shame then that dialogues such as the ones documented on Mazen Kerbaj's Al Maslakh label don't seem to garner much attention, predicated as they are on commonality rather than difference. The Adventures of Nabil Fawzi is one of those dialogues, with the American Gene Coleman on bass clarinet and the Lebanese Raed Yassin on double bass. The title of the album and the controlling theme of the titles allude (perhaps ironically) to a shared culture, 'Nabil Fawzi' being the Arabic name of Superman.
Both Coleman and Yassin are artistic multi-taskers, giving lie not only to the separation of cultures but to the separation of the arts. The globe-trotting Coleman deals in filmmaking and painting as well as composing and improvising, while Yassin works in video and performance art in addition to his music. On the five "episodes" presented here, the pair engages in visceral, acoustic-based spontaneous composition using what has become a true musical lingua franca, free improvisation.
The episodes mostly hover around the 10-minute mark, so Rassin and Coleman get ample room to display their split-second communication and ability to build up meaningful wholes. Like other members of the Al Maslakh roster, the pair let their ideas breathe, develop and change. The original template for free bass clarinet-double bass duos is the classic vocalese that Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy worked up in Mingus' "What Love?" but Yassin and Coleman expand that template to include whole-instrument explorations, moving between jittery moments of call-and-response to dense layers of texture. For long passages of "Damn You Salah!" Coleman slurs and hisses with Yassin punctuating with woody thumps and percussive string strikes. The opening of "A Funny Day in Moore" pits Yassin's extended bowing and buzzing against Coleman's reedy tones, making for an unstable, slightly aggressive mixture in the way the sounds rub against each other, the instability foreshadowing the eruptions of violent exchange that follow.
Unfortunately, musical dialogue does not make for a global utopia, and tracking social movements through music - much less instrumental, improvised music - is bound to end up in, at best, over-generalizations, and at worst, untruths. For their part, Coleman and Yassin aren't proposing any utopia, or any solutions for that matter. Their prime concern is crafting improvisations packed with tension, sparks of beauty and plenty of interaction. But there is something exciting in hearing (and seeing - the cardboard slipcase displays Arabic and English side-by-side) free improvisation step down out of its abstractions, get dirty in the grime of current events and remind us of how important of a model it can be for social interaction.
Matthew Wuethrich | Dusted Magazine
Arabic textures are habitual for Raed Yassin, since the sound composer, video artist and actor who uses electronics as well as his bass, lives in his hometown of Beirut. One of Lebanon's small band of free improvisers - along with trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj and guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui - this completely improvised, five-track meeting with Coleman slowly builds to mutual transference.
An equal measure of its success can be attributed to Coleman, who has long focused on musical globalization. Artistic director of Ensemble Noamnesia, which specializes in performing new and experimental music, the reedist has worked with composers such as Helmut Lachenmann and Alvin Curran, plus improvisers such as bassist William Parker and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell.
Yassin concentrates on arco patterns, the better to meld with the wide vibrations from Coleman's bass clarinet. An example of this occurs on "Nadim Hilmi is in Danger", where reverberated lines from the bottom portion of the bass strings fasten onto similar chalumeau breathe from the clarinet. At times it's as if each is one-half of a polyphonic expression.
Subsequently the two switch parts back-and-forth and from high-pitched to low-toned vibrations. Coleman lets loose with shrill flutter tonguing or basement-level sonorous lowing as Yassin moves his bow in measured strokes from up near the scroll down to just above the spike, with bridge-slapping col legno strokes thrown in for good measure. These rounded tonal patterns in almost perfect harmony slyly insinuate that a horn could have strings and a double bass a mouthpiece and reed.
On his own, as in the exposition to "I Won't Go to Al-Kawkab Al-Yawmi Today", the bassist constructs a solo out of widely ratcheting string disintegrations that undulate singularly until Coleman announces himself with irregularly vibrated squeaks and trills. These watery pulsations simultaneously reveal the note and its squealed overtones. Soon jiggling sul ponticello pats from Yassin meld with widely vibrated textures from Coleman that seem to come from the bow of the bass clarinet rather than its bell. Concluding with pedal point string accompaniment and wind-shaking string movements, Coleman's finale is made up of sharp tongue slaps and flutter tonguing that replicate call-and-response actions from one horn.
Different episodes of tension-release, relaxation and agitation and contrapuntal note flapping characterize "A Funny Day in Moore", the more than 12½-minute centerpiece of the Adventure. Quivering reverb makes up the exposition as the long tones of the clarinet intersect with the bass's supple tremolo bowing. As the variations are exposed and discharged, pitches and tempos calmly vibrate or quiver then upsurge to sul ponticello manipulation from the bull fiddle and heavily breathed snorts and spurts from the reedist as if he is a fanciful wind god on an antediluvian map. As Yassin rubs his bass strings the wrong way for maximum tautness, Coleman responds with split-tone tongue slaps and slurs until these stretched timbres adhere polyphonically.
Ken Waxman | Jazzword
Beirut is a cosmopolitan city that has a free Improv scene - or did until quite recently. Its Irtijal festival was the occasion for the studio date in July 2005, featuring Lebanese double-bassist Raed Yassin and American bass clarinetist Gene Coleman . And Beirut's Al Maslakh label was created "to publish the unpublishable in the Lebanese artistic scen". All music is improvised and presented without cuts or overdubbing.
While Yassin is less of a known quantity, Gene Coleman has worked with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Roscoe Mitchell, Jim O'Rourke, Tny Conrad and Gastr Del Sol. He also directs Ensemble Naomnesia, a new music group that has worked with Sciarrino, Crumb, Ferrari and Lachenmann. The duo launch into Adventures with a furious assault - both are phenomenal players - and produce urgent, busy Improv with a strong theatrical dimension. Bass clarinet and arco bass blend particulary well, and Yassin is a master of extended techniques.
Even so, my preference goes to the quieter, subtler soundworld of Cloister , which presents London's Tom Chant on soprano sax ans Sharif Sehnaoui on acoustic guitar. Though no longer based in Lebanon, Sehnaoui is one of the founders of the Beirut scene, and the disc was recorded in 2005 at his Paris flat - the title comes from its location on the site of an old cloister, though monastic stillness settles over many passages here. But the results are not exactly reductionist. Though Chant, a longtime member of the Eddie Prevost's trio with John Edwards, makes extensive use of silence, essentially he follows up the possibilities for soprano sax created by Steve Lacy, Evan Parker and John Butcher. Painstaking attention to quiet sounds, especially in the highest register of the soprano, and slow scrapping or brushing of the guitar strings create a rapt air of expectancy, while lowing sounds are complimented by what sound like detuned boomings. The two protagonists sustain a high level of inventive sonic counterpoint over the 66 minute disc.
Andy Hamilton | Wire