Mahmoud Fadl, with Samy El Bably
Love Letter from King Tut-Ank-Amen
Piranha (

Master percussionist Mahmoud Fadl (bongo, conga, duff, duhula, marakash, sanduk misri, timbales) has assembled a free-swinging combo of Egyptian musicians (on accordion, alto sax, cello, double bass, violin, oud, kanoun and darabuka) to buoy himself and dazzling trumpeter Samy El Bably in an instrumental send-up of popular Cairo love songs by the city's golden-era vocalists, most famously the incomparable Uum Kalthum. The album's conceit: a time-defying instrumental rejoinder to the hot-blooded paean of Cuban poet Dulce Marķa Loynaz, penned to the mummified corpse of young King Tut. In his fifth lead outing for Piranha, Mahmoud has reason enough (and chops aplenty) to soar with the ghostly, impossible longing of Loynaz for the departed Pharaoh. But in many ways, the call-to-prayer, quarter-tone subtleties of El Bably's trumpet work - exploring the sinuous modes of pan-Arabic musical heritage - constitute the pivotal element here. And speaking of apparitions, on the recorded evidence, the spirit of Miles could be perched on the shoulder - or seated at the feet - of El Bably. This superb pairing of trumpeter and percussionist again reveals the consummate sensibilities of Piranha, the Berlin-based label responsible for bringing the music of so many outstanding world roots artists to European audiences. And to launch that sarcophagus back to Havana, Mahmoud and El Bably levitate an artistic vitality perfectly capable of raising the grateful dead to dance. - Michael Stone

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