Best of 2016 #29: Sawa – “Sawa” (Two Rivers Records)


The self-titled album from the trio Sawa challenges the perception of what gets defined as unconventional.  The first obstacle it overcomes is the presumption that something different will be difficult to connect with.  And yet the Arabic vocals of Alya Al-Sultani matched with the European jazz of pianist Clemens Christian Poetzsch and the chamber music of cellist Shirley Smart presents itself with a simplicity that rivals its stunning beauty.  Al-Sultani’s vocals lend equal care to provide both melodic intent and rhythmic support.  Poetzsch employs the rare fluid piano on many tracks, and its ability to shift out of standard tuning adds a dimension to the music that ratchets up the textures exponentially.  And Smart’s role on cello isn’t some vanilla harmonic device… instead, she often shadows the piano’s rhythmic approach before suddenly coalescing into Al-Sultani’s melodic path.  This ain’t your normal jazz trio session, but that Sawa comes pretty damn close to being just as easy to embrace is yet one more impressive quality of this impressive album.

Jazz from London, UK.

Read more about the album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).