Absolute Ensemble: Arabian Nights

On the heels of their stunning collaboration with Joe Zawinul, the New York-based Absolute Ensemble, under the direction of Estonian-American conductor Kristjan Järvi, delves into the music of the Middle East on Arabian Nights. Recorded at Town Hall in New York in 2007 as part of the Not Just Jazz series, this bit of world-music exotica features the 12-piece ensemble with guest soloists Marcel Khalife on oud and vocals, Bachar Khalife on hand percussion, Bassam Saba on nay and Swiss-born saxophonist Daniel Schnyder. This East-meets-West experiment is most effective on the infectious “Bahriyyeh” and two numbers composed by Schnyder: the challenging, time-shifting “Da Kord” and the exhilarating two-part “Dyun,” which features the composer on soprano sax and Marcel Khalife on oud. Schnyder’s ambitious four-part “Concerto for Nay” is also an exemplary piece of writing that beautifully captures the sound and spirit of the Middle East.