Sawa / Sawa

This blend of modern jazz, chamber, and Iraqi folk music is about as enchanting as an album can get. The Sawa trio—comprised of the Arabic vocals of Alya Al-Sultani, pianist Clemens Christian Poetzsch and cellist Shirley Smart—are three facets of a gem that refracts gorgeous light. That Poetzsch utilizes a fluid piano on certain tracks only adds to the intrigue. The microtonal instrument makes good use of non-Western tunings, providing a stark range of expressions on an album that already had plenty to start with.

 

#winyagalob

Slavic Soul Party plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite

There’s a certain synchronicity in play when Slavic Soul Party!, an oddball brass band that embodies the adventurous spirit of Gypsy jazz, performs a rendition of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, an oddball album triggered by Ellington’s long and winding road of overseas tour stops. The nonet of SSP doesn’t restrict itself to its foundation of Balkan music any more than the legendary Ellington restricted his orchestra to, well, anything. And that’s a good thing, because in the same way the harmonic textures and melodic shaping speak to the complexities inherent in this whip-smart music, the thick grooves and catchy melodies that drive it evoke a festive atmosphere.