Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
October 19, 2023 - 1:26pm EDT
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With a French mother and Iraqi father, Amin Al Aiedy is an oud, double bass and ney player who is well grounded in two cultures and studied guitar and bass at the Conservatory and University of Strasbourg. Continuing his study of oud and oriental maqams in Tunisia, Amin Al Aiedy taught jazz and double bass at the Higher Institute of Music in Tunis while participating in various jazz and world music groups. Returning to France in 2020, he established himself as a composer, arranger and oud player.

As news currently carries so many dire reports of conflict and war in the Mideast, we should be heartened that a musician like Amin Al Aiedy is emphasizing how music is first and foremost a human relationship. His nine poignant compositions on SHAMS emanate from such connections. I first listened to his music before dawn on a cool fall October day in Oregon. “Morning Fractal” allowed me to contemplate a much more peaceful world full of love, not hate. For me, “Eclipse” conveyed images of the annular “ring of fire” eclipse that just occurred just last week in a path across North America. Similarly, “Snow on Baghdad” makes a natural statement with character by delivering an honest, uncompromising vision true to itself as peaceful serenity again crossed my mind. The title cut, “SHAMS” is an ode to a captivating Middle East region, Bilad al Sham which means “Land of the Sun.” Inspired by this culturally rich and vibrant area, Amin Al Aiedy creates music that radiates brightness and warmth. And, that vivacity and glow could be interpreted as a clarion call for human connection, contentment and cooperation. 

Amin Al Aiedy is joined by Vincent Forestier (piano), Matheo Cielsa (drums) and Jean Waché (double bass). All are masterful, experienced musicians who complement this adventurous jazz journey. All three must play with sensitivity, intelligence, perception and solidarity to support and resonate with the oud. Passionate about chamber music, jazz and improvisation, Forestier obtained his Master's degree in 2015 from the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève where he also gained insight into new musical cultures ranging from jazz to Cuban and Balkan music. While the youngest member of the group, drummer Matheo Ciesla also demonstrates much musical maturity. His studies, passion and creation of his own group (Diaspora 5tet) made him an ideal accomplice to explore the fascinating music on SHAMS. After receiving his musical education, bassist Jean Waché has built a resume with many varied projects incorporating jazz, Cuban folklore, French chanson, orchestral, freely improvised music, and music from different countries.

Within these nine tracks spanning for over an hour, the four consummate musicians on SHAMS play with great creativity, innovation, feeling and understanding. Closing the album, “Evening Fractal” begins with a more ominous sound before evolving into an impressionistic, uncompromising musical portrait of optimism, hope and vision for the world. Amin Al Aiedy’s life journey has led him to both sides of the Mediterranean and an assimilation of two cultures. His captivating two-dimensional music takes flight on SHAMS and synthesizes his journey through harmonic and rhythmic riches of the West and melodic spirituality of the East. Elements include jazz modes, Arab maqams, diverse polyrhythms, and improvisational flights weaving between written cadences and new arabesques. While melody takes center stage, it’s also music with transcendent irregularity, freedom and compassion. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)