Enja 9479-2
label website

Journey to the Centre of an Egg isn't just whimsically titled. It's an off-the-main-highway Jazz outing between at first blush unlikely protagonists: Rabih Abou-Khalil on oud, Joachim Kühn on piano or alto sax and Jarrod Cagwin on frame and other drums. Wolfgang Reisigner guest starts on drums on two tracks. Journey is Khalil's 13th effort for Enja Records while the 61-year-old German Jazz pianist has more than 200 albums under his own belt.

Unlike Kavi Alexander's WaterLily format whose cross-cultural impromptu exploits don't always allow the musicians enough common ground or preparation to truly communicate deeply, Journey is strongly rooted in shared Jazz conventions between its protagonists. That makes for head-on improv encounters between Arabian lute and Western Jazz piano that work on all levels, not just on novelty. They display surprising elasticity as grooves develop out of meditative solos, deconstruct again, twist and turn in unexpected interludes, get recombined when the frame drum reinserts a common pulse only to change gestalt once again.

This is cutting-edge out-there stuff that still maintains beautiful cohesion. It epitomizes the quicksilver psychic interactions between three on-the-ball performers endowed with instantaneous reflexes. It thus demands the same of the listener to keep up and not miss the many subtle cues that predate the seemingly arbitrary turns as organizing principles. It's demanding but rewarding music that explores new frontiers, especially for the Arabian lute which most of us will never quite have heard in this type of setting before. Whatever a journey to the inside of an egg really signifies, it's most definitely a worthwhile undertaking. It's a bit shamanic in nature since you're thrust into the unknown outside the mind and must let go before things make sense. In short, brilliantly eclectic stuff.