By Jeff Dayton-Johnson
Jazz musicians have long been drawn to Moroccan music for inspiration. Three new releases illustrate that this musical cross-pollination is alive and well. Pianist Randy Weston ran a nightclub in Morocco in the late 1960s. His 1972 release Blue Moses, issued for the first time in the US on CD, adapts Moroccan themes to a big band that features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.
The Boston collective Club d’Elf, meanwhile, whose members include jazz pianist John Medeski and oud player Braham Frigbane, introduce a heavy dose of psychedelia in the mix on their Electric Moroccoland, and even feature a Maghrebi version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” sung by Hassan Hakmoun.
Finally, oud master Majid Bekkas, who has frequently collaborated with jazz players, brings us Mabrouk, a marvel of small-group improvisation.
Moroccan and jazz musics mesh so well because both are already syntheses of so many styles. Jazz brought together African and European practices in New Orleans; Moroccan music, meanwhile, mixes Arabic, Berber and sub-Saharan traditions.
Read Jeff Dayton-Johnson’s review of Majid Bekkas’s Mabrou at allaboutjazz.com.