Reem Kelani - Sprinting Gazelle
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cd cover Reem Kelani
Sprinting Gazelle
Fuse Records (

Elegant and poetic, Reem Kelani's debut CD speaks to the woe and joy of Palestinian life. She has a voice of such power and passion that if it were one degree more intense, it would burst.

The CD is a graceful mix of the traditional and the avant-garde. It is experimental without being grating to the ear. Her diverse settings of traditional Palestinian songs and the work of twentieth century Palestinian poets show her to be an innovator with a sensitive ear. The instrumentation is much more than mere accompaniment - it becomes part of the story. Western instruments such as violin, clarinet and piano interact with yarghul, nay, and a battery of Middle Eastern percussion. In "The Cameleer Tormented My Heart," camel bells and acoustic bass give way to scratchy fiddle, drony bass clarinet, and swishing percussion to create a desert landscape under Kelani's expansive vocals.

"A Baker's Dozen"
One of the most organic pieces is the thirteen-beat "A Baker's Dozen." The violin and bass clarinet play repeated parallel lines over hand claps. Zoe Rahman's sweeping piano work provides a rich backdrop to several tracks. On the seven-minute-plus "Yafa!," in which piano is the only accompaniment, Kelani uses the Arabic practice of qasidah, a highly ornamented improvisational technique. Rahman follows Kelani's mournful vocals with tender warmth and raging passion, at times suggesting a Keith Jarrett influence with her rolling arpeggios and left hand ostinati.

The only barely perceptible misstep is "Galilean Lullaby." Its predictable harmonic and melodic material accompanied by a tinkly new-age piano make it a little too precious in the presence of the magnificent work surrounding it. Inexplicably, they reprise this weak link in the bonus track. Again, it's a minor lapse in an otherwise sublime work. - Peggy Latkovich

CD available from cdRoots


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