Karim Baggili Quartet, Cuatro con Cuatro (homerecords.be, 2005)

I first heard Karim Baggili at a multi-artist showcase at Scandinavia House in Manhattan this January. A master of both flamenco guitar and the Medieval oud, Baggili performed for an electric twenty minutes accompanied by only a percussionist and occasionally a singer. The eclectic nature of Baggili's music is reflected in his own upbringing; though born and raised in Belgium, he is half Jordanian and half Yugoslavian. Baggili has performed with a number of different combinations of musicians in his career, most of whom also come from diverse backgrounds but somehow wound up in Brussels. This particular CD, called Cuatro con Cuatro, was recorded in 2005 by the Karim Baggili Quartet, featuring Baggili, Phillipe Laloy on flute and saxophone, Kathy Adam on cello, and Osvaldo Hernandez Napoles on percussion.

Cuatro con Cuatro alternates between livelier, percussive pieces and calmer, jazzier ones. Most of the nine tracks run over five minutes, leaving room for extended solos and improvisations. The music mixes together many styles, from flamenco to jazz to classical to baroque to Arabic. Some of the stylistic pairings are more natural than one might think at first glance, though. All the European plucked stringed instruments, and their corresponding musical traditions, evolved from Arabic predecessors, including and especially the lute and Spanish guitar. The faster pieces like "Septime" and "Mr. Lee" worked better for me than the slower ones, mainly because they better reflect Baggili's considerable instrumental skill. Most of the slower tunes, particularly the lengthier instrumentals, fail to maintain the album's momentum. The exception is the album's one song, a sad Spanish ballad called "La Llorona."

Some of the material on Cuatro con Cuatro is very good, but like a lot of virtuoso performers, Baggili doesn't quite match on record what he is capable of doing in a live concert. You'll have to take my word for it that his mesmerizing set in January drew raves from a lot of people who didn't previously know his work. Cuatro con Cuatro teases the listener with hints of that excitement, but has too many lulls in the action to fully deliver the goods.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

Oh great, we have a Belgium tag now. I thought I was going out on a limb with Seattle...