News, Thoughts, and other Words

Update: The Astounding Eyes of Rita (Anouar Brahem)

A while back I posted a transcription of “The Astounding Eyes of Rita", a beautiful composition by Anouar Brahem. 

My previous transcription was of how it was played on the recording, which is really useful for study, but is a…

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Wayne Shorter: El Gaucho

UPDATE  5/3/23 - found the transcription!  Link should work now. 

Just thought I'd share a transcription I did a while ago.  I think it's pretty accurate, but there may be some some mistakes or typos (since I do these primarily…

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Live Shows!

I'm very excited to finally announce a few shows coming up.  It's been almost exactly two years since I had to cancel all my performances due to the pandemic, and more than anything, I've missed live events—playing music with people…

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Hubbi & Raqset al-Atlas Sheet Music

Here are two great tunes that are a lot of fun to play, and very conducive to adding improvisations in performance.
"Raqset al-Atlas" is a famous tune by the Moroccan musician Abdelkader al-Rashdi (عبد القادر الراشدي).   Listening to it recently…

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Talwin (Touyour) - Anouar Brahem Transcription

Here's another favorite from Anouar Brahems Thimar on ECM.  This recording was a rearrangement of Brahem's earlier song "Touyour."  This is a beautiful and rare example of Brahem's vocal music.  For Thimar, Brahem took the instrumental interludes from the song…

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Qasida La Ta‘dhili

This is a piece I heard recently and decided to transcribe.  It has a really beautiful and fascinating rhythmic structure, a fact pointed out on Facebook by Faisal Zedan.  Faisal is a master percussionist from Syria with a deep…

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Arabian Waltz - Rabih Abou-Khalil

Here's one I've been asked for a number of times.  For some reason, I never got around to it before.  This tune first appeared on Rabih Abou-Khalil's album Tarab, and later on the album Arabian Waltz.  It's the…

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Conte de L'Incroyable Amour - Anouar Brahem

Continuing my look through Anouar Brahem's music, here's another old one. 

An interesting thing about Brahem is that is recordings are often not perfect performances, and this tune is another example of that.  The first time through the B section…

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Qurb - Anouar Brahem

This is a lovely piece by Anouar Brahem, one he has rarely performed.  The main recording available is Thimar, with Dave Holland and John Surman. 

This album was my first experience with Brahem's music; it came out in 1998…

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Taqasim Lesson: Rubato on the Beat & Polyrhythms

I thought I'd share a few thoughts about a general concept/technique in Arabic music that I think of as "rubato on the beat" or "out-of-time but in-time." I've never heard anyone use a specific term for this in Arabic, if…

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Parfum de Gitane (aka Itr al-Ghajar) عطر الغجر

Here's my transcription of one Anouar Brahem's most popular pieces, Parfum de Gitane.   This sheet music is based on the version he plays on "Astrakan Cafe," which has some minor differences from the version he plays on "Barzakh."

This is…

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Oud Position Study - Etude for first course

This is a little exercise I wrote to practice the higher positions and achieving consistent intonation on the oud.   The notes are all C major on the first string. 

I suggest following the fingerings exactly to get the intended benefits…

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—About Me

I play oud and guitar.  My main interests have been Arabic music and jazz, sometimes separately and sometimes together.   While my own projects are mostly focused on my original music, I maintain a deep love for the profound repertory and tradition of both the jazz and Arabic music communities and often play that music in various groups. 

I live in Brooklyn NY, a place I’ve been connected to since I was a kid spending summers with my grandparents, who were from Greenpoint.  Prior to moving here in 2003, I spent a decade in New Orleans.  The deep musical history and culture there left an indelible mark on me as a musician, and continues to inspire me today—not just musically, but in my sense of how music is about communication and community.  While playing guitar immersed in the jazz scene in New Orleans, the oud entered my life via various recordings and immediately I felt drawn to the rich expressiveness of Arabic music.  After much searching, an opportunity arose to purchase and oud and I jumped in and started teaching myself to play from records.  After a few years of exploring on my own, I heard through a friend about a music retreat led by one of the greatest oud players in the world, Simon Shaheen.  Hearing Simon play the oud on recordings had been awe-inspiring and transformed my appreciation for what the oud was capable of.  There was no way I could pass up an chance too study with the master himself, but I couldn't have imagined how much that decision would change my life and how central the Arabic music community would become in my musical journey. 

Simon and his brothers Najib and William encouraged my interest and were extremely generous in their guidance and mentorship, along with other accomplished Arab musicians like Bassam Saba, Zafer Tawil, and Sami Abu Shumays.  Since moving to NY I’ve been fortunate to be involved firsthand with many musicians in the Arab community and beyond, and have played in and led many groups out of that tradition: Simon Shaheen’s Qantara, the New York Arabic Orchestra, Zikrayat, the Bil Afrah Project, Sharq Attack, Nashaz, as well as various genre-bending musical projects, theater, modern dance, and film. 

Lately I've been co-curating a new music series, the Brooklyn Maqam Hang,  aiming to bring the New  York Arabic music community together and welcome new listeners.  We want to create opportunities for performance and for veteran musicians to inspire and mentor younger musicians, extending the welcome that brought us into the community. Other projects have been writing music for my ensembles Sharq Attack and Nashaz, and performing traditional Egyptian and Syrian music with Zikrayat, Takht al-Nagham and other ensembles.  I've also been adding oud to some film soundtracks and playing the occasional Broadway show.