The Anglo-French quartet [Ahmed] أحمد – British pianist Pat Thomas and alto sax player Seymour Wright, and French double bass player Joel Grip and drummer Antonin Gerbal – reimagines and reworks the music of American double bass and oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993), known for integrating African-Muslim musical traditions into jazz and coining the concept of East Meets West (as the title of his sophomore album, RCA Victor, 1960). Abdul-Malik has played with Art Blakey, Earl Hines, Randy Weston and Thelonious Monk and claimed that his father was born in Sudan, probably meaning figuratively that his musical forefathers were African, as Africa is called in Arabic «Bilad al-Sudan» (بلاد السودان, Land of the Blacks).
Thomas argues in the liner notes to «Nights on Saturn (communication)» that we «can now see that Jass or Jazz is more likely to be of Arabic origin». And American double bass player Luke Stewart (who plays in the Irreversible Entanglements quartet and with trumpeter Jamie Branch and sax player James Brandon Lewis) adds: «Musicians such as Ahmed Abdul-Malik were able to experience the global community of sound warriors, drawing inspiration from ancient cultures to support personal investigation. The connection was made clear, the music of Africa would certainly influence the African in America despite the atrocities of the Middle Passage, chattel slavery, and continued racist violence that sought to sever any connection to the continent. The beauty of Malik’s investigation is this original fusion of new music (Jazz) of the African in America with ancient music of Africa. It is a shining example of collaboration in culture, where the music is allowed to shine for itself».
«Nights on Saturn (communication)» is the third album of [Ahmed] أحمد and was recorded at London’s Cafe OTO in December 2019 when the quartet celebrated the release of its second album, Super Majnoon (Oturoku, 2019). [Ahmed] أحمد reinterprets Abdul-Malik’s «Night on Saturn» (originally from «The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik», New Jazz, 1961) and «Communication» (originally from «Sounds of Africa», New Jazz, 1962) as one extended 41-minute piece. Abdul-Malik’s photo is featured on the cover, captured at the Cabana Club, New York City in 1965.
[Ahmed] أحمد interplay is based on intense and aggressive rhythmic drive, intensified first by Thomas’ hammering of the piano keys and later by his imaginative and subtle exploration of the original theme, the hard-swinging pulse of Grip and Gerbal and the fierce and repetitive cries of Seymor’s alto sax. Soon the quartet settles in its zone and offers powerful, hypnotic rhythmic layers as a tight collective, alternating between a clever abstraction of the rhythmic elements of Abdul-Malik’s music and manic outbursts that push the interplay into ecstatic and cathartic chaos, clearly appreciated by the Cafe OTO’s audience. Bechir Attar, the leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka (and this band’s Gnawa music influenced Abdul-Malik’s music) called [Ahmed] أحمد music «Super Majnoon», super crazy. Fortunately, [Ahmed] أحمد is still crazy, inspired and totally committed to expanding jazz sonic territories. This is a band that you should experience live.
Pat Thomas (p), Seymour Wright (as), Joel Grip (b), Antonin Gerbal (dr)