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Rabih Abou-Khalil: The Cactus of Knowledge
Rabih Abou-Khalil The Cactus of Knowledge
Actors: Rabih Abou Khalil, Ellery Eskelin, Eddie Allen, Michel Godard, Dave Ballou
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     1hr 22min

This music DVD features the collaborative effort of an intercontinental ensemble of great improvisers whose styles range from straight-ahead jazz to new classical music. The orchestra's unprecedented rhythmic force is prov...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Rabih Abou Khalil, Ellery Eskelin, Eddie Allen, Michel Godard, Dave Ballou
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Pop, Jazz, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Enja
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 22min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French, Arabic

Movie Reviews

Ambitious orchestral jazz with "middle east" ambience
Ian Muldoon | Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia | 01/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a move up for Mr Abou-Khalil in the sense that he has moved beyond the percussive and rhythmic foundation over which a soloist such as the great Mr Sonny Fortune will solo improvise, to a more inclusive and richer palette in which the percussion does not predominate. There is no bass. The frame drummer Mr Nabil Khaiat plays an important role but Jarrod Cagwin is integrated effectively into the overall sound. The sound palette includes Mr Varner (perhaps a modern jazz genius on his chosen instrument the french horn), Mr Bargeron (euphonium), Michel Godard (Tuba), Mr Courtois (cello, arco or plucked one of the most beautiful sounds in all music). But added to this the delight of that Persian masterpiece, the 11 stringed oud, played by the leader, and the clarinet of Mr Mirabassi. Thus, it is clear to me that the teasing out of the most beautiful SOUNDS are an essential part of appreciating Mr Abou-Khalil's intentions here. This is underscored by the inclusion of sound engineer Mr Quintus listed as a MUSICIAN. Although there is ample space for solos - the opening by the clarinet and cello and frame drum on Track 3 (Fraises et Creme Fraiche) is ravishingly beautiful;the solos on clarinet and tenor on Maltese Chicken Farm soar; - much of the enjoyment from this programme of music comes from the ensembles, compositions and arrangements by the leader which contribute to the main effect of the music which is atmospheric and impressionistic. Does the ghost of Mr Ellington hover in the wings? Additionally, the production itself, the lithography, calligraphy, and,by Gamal Ghitany, the prose entitled THE BUTTERFLY OF LIGHT provided in English, German, Arabic and French attests to the care with which Mr Winckelmann and Mr Abou-Khalil wish to present this music. (If only Mr Ellington had had this opportunity for the presentation of his music during his lifetime.)
In short, an object, and a programme of music, to treasure."
Seductively engaging 'new music'
Archel | Sydney, Australia | 10/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A big band led by an oud (11-string forefather of the lute) virtuoso and musical visionary exiled from Lebanon, who keenly studied classical and jazz in Europe. Khalil's music is a very exotic and convincing hybrid of the improvisational and 'swinging' tendencies of jazz and Arabic music, and an elaborate approach to structural development and arranging more commonly associated with classical music. In this respect he reminds me a little of the Mingus and latter day Holland approach to big-band jazz (apart from the Arabic elements, of course), except that the music on this disc is more delicate and more densely textured. The closest comparison that comes to mind in terms of mood and eastern aesthetics are the more obviously Klezmer influenced parts of Masada's "Tet" (the only Masada album I own). However, here there is virtually no dissonance and free-style soloing (which I love for its own sake). This is much more focused music, more thematically developed and replete with immaculately placed nuances. It is also more consistently engaging. The rhythmic wealth of this album should be a particular attraction. Apart from some beautifully subdued delights, there is constantly a firm but not overbearing rhythmic drive, which is highly syncopated but relentlessly groovy, while being overlaid with subtly varying percussive intricacies that add depth to the general theme/feel of each composition rather than detract from it. The discipline of all the players, including the leader, might cause some less attentive listeners to overlook how highly skilled they are. That does not matter too much as this music can be enjoyed at a party or as a work/study background just as much as it can when you let it completely absorb you or when you try to analyze it. Also, for those particularly keen on strummed string instruments, I quote the Penguin Guide to Jazz description of Khalil's oud playing as "fleet and rhythmic as that of any jazz guitarist."The attention afforded to the tone qualities of each instrument (oud, cello, two trumpets, euphonium, French horn, tuba, clarinet, alto and tenor saxes, frame drums, and drums), including the way the instruments complement each other in this respect is awe-inspiring. I haven't been able to stop listening to this for two days straight. It has seduced me into breaking my own new rule against writing lengthy reviews."
Exquisite music from a great original composer
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 07/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"To me, Rabih Abou-Khalil is one of the most fascinating writers and arrangers in the music business today, and even though there are some "samenesses" in several of his albums, there is always enough original music to make up for it. This recent addition is no exception, presenting the composer and Oud player at his most salubrious and elegant. Outstanding music, beautifully played."
Not that bad, not that great
William E. Russell | Oakland, CA [Bostonian-in-exile] | 06/24/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Two stars seems a little harsh for this CD, but the 4 1/2 star rating it got from Downbeat is also way out of line. 3 1/2 would be more like it. Although CACTUS OF KNOWLEDGE is not up to the standard of Abou-Khalil's best work, there are at least three tracks that I like well enough to include on my personal mix tapes: "Fraises Et Crème Fraiche", "Business As Usual", and "Oum Said". As for the rest of the CD...well, the size of the group is a large part of the problem. Abou-Khalil usually works with groups of 4-6 musicians; here he's juggling 12. It's not surprising that some tracks are a bit over-arranged; the individuality of the players does tend to get lost in the crowd. (How many contemporary jazz composers can write well for a group of this size, anyway? Henry Threadgill, Andrew Hill, Ned Rothenberg, maybe Edward Vesala...and that's about it.) Still, the high points here are as good as anything else in Abou Khalil's oeuvre: the fine trumpet solo on "Business...", the solo cello introduction to "Fraises...", the oud solos throughout. If you've never heard Abou-Khalil before, this is probably not the place to start; any of the CDs featuring Charlie Mariano or Sonny Fortune would be a better introduction. Better yet: the wonderful quartet recording, YARA, with Dominique Pifarely and Vincent Courtois (both on loan from Louis Sclavis' quintet) on violin and cello."