Michel Sajrawy Album the Antidote to Sterile Jazz

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If, like me, you find too much contemporary small combo jazz little more than noodling masquerading as meditative, check out guitarist Michel Sajrawy. The Palestinian-born Sarjrawy titled his new album Arabop, which is also a nice handle to describe his sound. He works his magic in a band that includes two saxophonists, two bassists, an oud player, and a percussionist but his explosive guitar riffs are what stand front and center. They come in bursts that emulate the linguolabial sounds a kid makes when flicking the tongue against the upper lip, but there’s nothing child-like about the music. Sarjrawy plays muscular guitar with the abandon of Jimi Hendrix and the precision of Larry Coryell. He also offers flashes of humor. The title track, for instance, has the sort of giddy feel that could serve as a soundtrack for an animated Matt Groening Akbar and Jeff caper. Sarjawy also has a contemplative side, as heard on a track such as “1 Count Before 40,” and mines a few classics—one Syrian and one Egyptian—but his main approach is summed by the self-explanatory “Syncretic Beliefs.” His energy is the perfect antidote to the torpor of jazz guitarists more interested in talking to themselves than connecting with an audience. Give it a spin and prepare to stir. --Rob Weir

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