The Arab Orchestra of Nazareth - Live in Nazareth
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The Arab Orchestra of Nazareth
Live in Nazareth
Magda (

cd cover This live release clearly captures the 16-member Arab Orchestra of Nazareth's tribute to the Lebanese music of the Rahabani Brothers and others, enough to create a fine recording, but performances by four very distinct vocalists add infectious aural joy. Instrumentation is based on strings, ney, oud, and qanun with darbuka percussion, carefully arranged to provide dramatic support to the vocalists. Balance is just about perfect, vocalists out front, audience reaction, often enthusiastic, in deep but audible background.

Suzan Kazmouz-Mazzawi's alto voice is smoky and seductive, adroitly interacting with the orchestra's skipping staccato runs on the slow, stately "Al-Mahaba," contributing romance to the calm, rolling "Snjarjio Yawman." Lubna Salome's vocal style is more driven and edgy, launching into extended trilling fancies immediately off Arabic fricatives, often seemingly playing with the orchestra's figures on the lively "A'la Jisr Il Iousieh." "Taqassim Qanun/Ya Bayli Ya Boylali" starts with a patterned improvisation, a taqsim, on qanun, a hammered dulcimer, Salome's vocal responding in a suspended rhythmic time, eliciting spirited audience applause before the ensemble kicks into a quicker beat, Salome's vocal compelling in its higher range, a thrilling performance.

The long, upbeat, somewhat comical two-step orchestral introduction to "Inte Wana" puts one in mind of a Broadway musical about a horse race, 15-year-old Hiba Bathish's vocal a paragon of seemingly effortless power and control, replete with warmth and emotion, a standout track. A dense, dramatic instrumental bed, perhaps the orchestras best, supports the pleasant baritone of Alla Shurush on "Holom L Layali," each phoneme so clearly and carefully intoned that one can close one's eyes and visualize their perfect, varying shapes, rendering this another standout track. The orchestra takes a bow on the closing instrumental track, "Lyali Lobnan."

All of Live in Nazareth is beautiful, compelling music, but the two long stand-out tracks featuring Hiba Bathish and Alla Shurush respectively demand and reward repeated attention. - Jim Foley

CD available at cdRoots

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