Tareq Abboushi & Shusmo
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Tareq Abboushi & Shusmo
Artist release (www.shusmo.com)

First, a bit of linguistic background information: “shusmo” is to Arabic what “whatchamacallit” is to English, and “mumtaz,” is the Arabic word for “excellent.” Mumtastic may be a lofty, invented word with which to title an album, but there’s no denying that Palestinian Tareq Abboushi is a master of the long-necked lute known as the buzuq or that the players comprising Shusmo - clarinetist and zurna player Lefteris Bournias, bassist Dave Phillips and percussionists Hector Morales and Zafer Tawil - likewise know exactly what they’re doing. Abboushi honed his buzuq technique at the conservatory in Ramallah, but only after he’d been exposed to a good deal of Western classical, rock and pop music.

His later jazz piano studies in the U.S. prompted him to see what sorts of Middle East/West fusions were possible. He explores those possibilities with tasty skill and little in the way of pretense, riding the decidedly funky feel of the opening “Longa Nakreez” like his fingers are on a joyride and then making space for Bournias’ reedy fills and thrills. “The Time It Takes” goes a little klezmer as Abboushi and Bournias goose each other along some more, then a plunge into the Latin kick of “Georgina +2” brings the rhythm section to the fore. They prove themselves mightily there and throughout (witness Phillps’ marvelous bass solo on “Traveling,”), building solid walls of shifting groove around Abboushi’s takes on jazz, Turkish and Palestinian tradition, modern Arabic dance music, samba and more besides.

Apart from some seriousness in the form of hauntingly possessed clarinet passages and “The Wall,” an effective piece bristling with the discontentment of marginalized Palestinians in Israel, Mumtastic is loaded with impeccably played fun that’s hard to classify but easy to love. - Tom Orr

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