MADELEINE BRAND, Host:

And moving now to a new recording that's an intriguing mix of traditional Middle Eastern music and Western jazz. Here's DAY TO DAY's contributing writer David Was.

DAVID WAS reporting:

In these contentious times, the seamless and bloodless fusion of disparate musical traditions is a needed example of what some called cultured jamming. And none is better at it than the Lebanese oud master, Rabih Abou-Kahlil, who has been exploring the midpoint between traditional Arabic music and Western jazz for several decades.

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WAS: His new CD, Journey to the Centre of an Egg, is his thirteenth for the Ina label, distributed here in the U.S. by the company, Just in Time.

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WAS: Better known in Europe than stateside, Abou-Kahlil has collaborated in the past with noted Yank jazz saxophonists like Sonny Fortune and Charlie Mariano and has had his compositions played by the Kronos Quartet. He left his civil war wracked hometown of Beirut for Germany in 1978, where he studied classical flute at the Conservatory in Munich and simultaneously rediscovered the virtues of his native musical traditions and his first instrument, the oud.

(Soundbite of Middle Eastern music)

WAS: The oud is a half pear-shaped fretless string instrument and the direct ancestor of the lute. It has five pairs of strings, each tuned to the same pitch, and a thick single string called the bamteli in Turkish. It is one of the few musical instruments embraced by the Muslim faith, said to be bestowed on mortals from the heavens.

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WAS: Abou-Kahlil might be considered a bit blasphemous for playing the oud as if he were a jazz guitarist. Even though he often employs the familiar modes and scales of the instrument's origins and plays in some pretty gnarly time signatures like 11/4 and 9/8, meters which usually confound Western musicians used to 3/4 and 4/4.

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WAS: On Journey to the Centre of an Egg, he pairs up with German jazz pianist, Joachim Kuhn, an adventurous soloist who is equally at home with the music of Bach as he is with Ornette Coleman. Kuhn can be eloquent and also funky and adds contrapuntal jabs and accents to the sometime furious, sometime restive compositions.

(Soundbite of Middle Eastern music)

WAS: Rounding out the trio is American-born percussionist, Jarrod Cagwin, who's subtle and cascading polyrhythms fuel the free-wheeling escapades of the two soloists.

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WAS: Three continents and three musical traditions, at once forward-looking and rooted firmly in ancient tradition, this is one journey well worth taking. Rabi Abou-Kahlil may have a foot planted firmly in both worlds, but he moves like the wind.

(Soundbite of Middle Eastern music)

BRAND: Oud player Rabih Abou-Kahlil recording is called Journey to the Centre of an Egg. Our reviewer, David Was, is half of the musical duo Was Not Was.

(Soundbite of Middle Eastern music)

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