For Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, to play jazz is to fight the BBS (Bush, Blair and Sharon) world order, to fight the new American colonialism. Philip Cheah reviews Atzmon's new CD, Muzik/Re-arranging The 20th Century.

Winner of the BBC Radio 3 Album of the Year for his 2003 release, Exile, Israeli jazz saxophonist (and former member of Ian Dury's Blockheads), Gilad Atzmon makes music to contemplate to. As Atzmon once wrote: "Jazz is a world view, an innovative form of resistance. For me, to play jazz is to fight the BBS (Bush, Blair and Sharon) world order, to aim towards liberation while knowing you may never get there, to fight the new American colonialism. To say what I believe in, to campaign for the liberation of my Palestinian and Iraqi brothers. To play jazz is to suggest an alternative reality, to reinvent myself, to be ready to do it till the bitter end."

To that end, Atzmon's music is achingly beautiful, nothing as explosive as free jazz. But yes, there is a long track called Liberating the American People where Atzmon's saxophone is blown with passion and desperation with a fine accompanying piano solo from Brit pianist, Frank Harrison. And the track's musical counterpoint is its gentle Middle Eastern flavour.

Atzmon's band, the Orient House Ensemble, is indeed multinational, a musical United Nations and a better one at that. They are the Romanian violinist, Dumitri Ovidiu Fratila, Italian accordionist Ramano Viazzani and Argentinian singer, Guillermo Rozenthuler. This is the musical United Nations that the world's trouble spots need. British prog rock and avant-jazz player, Robert Wyatt, guests on the title track, Re-Arranging the 20th Century, with a wry poem about how the "devil got the best tunes." It's a fun roller coaster ride where old chestnuts such as Roll out the Barrel and Mack the Knife are revived. Atzmon's version of Lili Marleen, a wartime song that has always stood for unity, is understandably given both an Arabic and Jewish musical flavour.

Elsewhere, Atzmon, whose tone is as sweet as Wayne Shorter, blows two beautiful ballads, Tutu Tango and musiK, the former of which morphs into a brisk tango. The Orient House Ensemble is the best example of a jazz-world band and Atzmon's music fills the heart with a yearning for understanding that only those who want peace will know.

Click here to download free Gilad Atzmon MP3s.

Articles by Gilad Atzmon:
The Myth Of
The Open Society: The Politics Of Auschwitz
Zionism And Other Marginal Thoughts

You can buy the Gilad Atzmon albums, Musik and Exile, at Atzmon also played on Robert Wyatt's Cuckooland which is a BigO Album of the Year 2003.

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