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CD Review: Tarik Hassan “Yalla!”

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

By Hrayr Attarian

Tarik Hassan Yalla!

Tarik Hassan – double bass Fabio Augustinis – drums (1, 2, 7–9); percussion (3) Ben Irom – piano (1–3, 7–9) Michael Longoria – drums (5, 6), Black Swan Drum (4) Noah Mosgofian – bongos (2, 3, 9), pandeiro (1, 2, 4), percussion (4, 7, 8) Brian Pardo – guitar (4-6) Kimberly Zielnicki – violin (all tracks except 4)

Bassist and educator Tarik Hassan explores various heritages on his second release as a leader, the charming and ebullient Yalla!. Hassan, first-generation American of Palestinian and Irish descent, weaves Levantine, Gaelic, and other folk motifs into his captivating compositions. His intricately crafted originals seamlessly integrate individual virtuosic improvisations within them.

The infectious title track, which means “come on!” in colloquial Arabic, opens with Hassan’s pulsatile thumps and drummer Fabio Augustinis’ and percussionist Noah Mosgofian’s percolating beats. Pianist Ben Irom’s sparse, yet poignant, keys set the mood for violinist Kimberly Zielnicki’s fiery and mellifluous solo. Hassan’s own agile extemporization extends naturally out of the tune’s Middle Eastern theme with gusto and soul.

Elsewhere, the wistful “Dublin” starts off on a Western classical note as Zielnicki and Hassan perform a bowed duet. After Zielnicki’s expressive turn in the spotlight, the tempo increases and the ambience becomes more expectant. Elements of traditional stepdance music coalesce around Irom’s eloquent and thrilling pianism.

Guitarist Brian Pardo and Zielinicki play in unison on the effervescent melody of the Americana-inspired “Dance of the Grackles.” Pardo then embellishes the tune with blistering and bluesy lines while Hassan contributes lithe and erudite ad-lib phrases. The piece also features drummer Michael Longoria’s thunderous polyrhythms. In contrast, on “Tango Avec Frenchie,” the band, led by Irom, sashays with sensual refrains. Zielnicki’s strings simmer with passion while Hassan’s reverberating tones stimulate and move. Mosgofian and Augustinis lay down a percussive groove that packs a visceral punch.

With this recording, Hassan has not only drawn from his ancestral traditions but also from he other sources of inspiration. Despite these variations he has produced a conceptually cohesive album that crackles with spontaneity and enchants with its lyricism. Thanks to Hassan’s creative imagination and his colleagues’ superb musicianship, Yalla! is a testament to the universality of the musical experience.

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