Belgian-born Karim Baggili comes from Jordanian and Yugoslavian parents and from an early age on, felt himself more than attracted to the guitar and its Arabian ancestor, the oud. After concertizing solo and accompanying a variety of artists in many different styles, Karim has recently formed a quartet to explore new horizons of his favorite flamenco and Arabian musical styles.
On Cuatro con cuatro, the four musicians plus one guest perform 8 original compositions and one arranged traditional. Though flamenco is a major ingredient, the recording has many more influences incorporated in its musical cauldron. World jazz compliments of Nathalie Loriers' piano is easily combined with more Middle Eastern flavors. In "Mr. Lee", the oud plays a prominent role together with Osvaldo Hernandez Napolez' percussion and the con-arco staccato of Kathy Adam's cello does start off very Middle Eastern but later in the song, the flute of Philippe Laloy bends the atmosphere more towards a Latin gestalt before it ends back somewhere in the Mediterranean. These swings in musical diversion make not only this composition interesting and captivating. The title track features the 4-stringed South American cuatro guitar in a ragingly upbeat melodic slapping.
The almost evergreen tear jerker "La Llorona" gets a very lovely makeover on vocals by Karim and Osvaldo with simple guitar and cuatro accompaniment. With the exceptional pure recording technique employed, this is a fine example of how simplicity can make something achingly beautiful. Both voices complement each other in a wonderful way and the breaks make the sad story of the weeping woman even sadder.
Guitar and soprano sax set the mood for "Incertitude", a slow introspective piece with ample space for the slow and dark-hued cello. Back to Flamenco/Jazz fusion goes "Mr Lee 2, Be water my friend", with strong percussion, a variety of intermingling rhythms and a broad stylistic palette. However elaborate this arrangement, it never goes over the top. After complex interludes, it stops and returns to the basic theme in time to keep the innate tension secured.
Afro-Cuban and South American vistas come up in the final track as the percussion plays a central part and underlines the involving melodic exercises between guitar and soprano sax.
Cuatro con Cuatro is a very involving CD. The tracks together form a long arc of unity that cover a wide variety of styles in an eclectic blend. Karim Bagilli, though the leader, assigns plenty of room for the other members of the quartet to excel. The recording and mastering are done with taste and good ears. Dynamics are plenty yet properly proportioned without clipping.