Badawi: Safe

Ably abetted by a stellar cast of musicians associated with the New York experimental jazz scene (string players Eyvind Kang, Mark Feldman, Jane Scarpantoni, tuba player Marcus Rojas, guitarist Marc Ribot), the Israel-born composer Reuel 'Raz' Mesinai (aka Badawi) conjures the deep mysteries of the Middle East and Arabia on his second Asphodel full-length Safe. Though his guests predictably dig into the aromatic material with impassioned ferocity, Mesinai's no slouch as a player either, his aggressive piano attack in the feverish “The Avenging Myth” more than equal to the broil stoked by Feldman and Kang, the 14-minute epic also proving an ample showcase for Mesinai's percussive talents (apparently he was introduced to Middle Eastern drumming as a child and spent time in drumming circles with Yemenite and Moroccan Jews where he learned how to play the Zarb, the Darabuka, and the Bendir). On “Sound on its Eccoing,” his flute lines undulate hypnotically over a funereal drone, with Mesinai's dub influences coming to the fore in the echoing string plucks that drift across the tune's desert expanses like a nomadic tribe. Elsewhere, the exotic hoedown “I Said Oblivion” affords the violinists an ideal vehicle for trading infectious lines while Shahzad Ismaily's electric bass rumbles animatedly through “Ocean of Tears (2005 remix).” With Ribot's stirring guitar work a focal point, “The Bedouin Walks Alone” strongly aligns the Middle Eastern dimension of Mesinai's sound with the ambiance of his adopted New York. Not only does Safe impress as a meticulously crafted and fully-realized collection of exotic soundscaping, but it's thoroughly accessible too.

June 2006