Concert Review – Joseph Tawadros: Melbourne Recital Centre, 28th March 2015

As my regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of musical cross-polination – it gives one differing sources of inspiration, different perspectives on musical performance, different colour palettes and sound worlds to store and draw upon and, of course, generally broadens ones horizons.

So when I heard that Aussie oud legend Joseph Tawadros was in town for a one night only initimate gig at the Salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre I booked in my ticket quicker than you could say “What is an oud? Oh, it’s kinda like an Middle Eastern mandolin or lute.”  Why? Tawadros is a musician of incredible proportions, and is a musician that enjoys and excels in cross-pollination, combining flavours of western classical, jazz and eastern classical musics.

In spite of having a number of Joseph’s recordings (and a number of recordings by Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem) this was the first time I’d seen oud playing live and in the flesh. Starting with multi-ARIA award winning Joseph Tawadros was certainly a very good idea on my part!

The evening was an intimate little setting in Melbourne Recital Centre’s Salon, the audience within grasping distance of Joseph. I really like the space for chamber-type recitals generally but the space, replete with atmospheric lighting to enhance the ambiance, really lent itself very well to the solo oud (rhymes with “would” for those unfamiliar) performance.

The music the audience were treated too was simply stunning. All pieces obviously eastern and Egyptian (Tawadros being of Egyptian descent) in their nature, infused with subtle aspects of jazz throughout.  And all deftly delivered by a blistering left hand, flying around the neck, and an equally eye-blurring right hand.

More than this, however, is the special musicianship with which the music was delivered. Tawadros is clearly one of those musicians, rare in number, who can seemingly weave a magic spell on the audience – drawing us in with lulling bass drones, moving modal melodies and delicious eastern cross-rhythms. The excitement in the audience was almost palpable at points, such was the level of energy Joseph was pouring into the room with some pieces. Gare de l’Est and Forbidden Fruit from his 2010 album The Hour of Separation were particular high points from my point of view.

Not only is Joseph an amazing musician, he is also a very entertaining, and rather witty story-teller. The stories he told of his adventures on the road in Egypt, New York, and country New South Wales, and how Egyptians apparently like eating pigeon (?!) had us all chuckling in our seats.

And as well building the audience up into a state of excitement with his wit and rapid fire playing, Joseph also demonstrated his skill in bringing the audience to a more reflective mood – his performance  of Heal (also from The Hour of Separation), dedicated to his late parents, is a beautiful piece, that was performed in an equally beautiful fashion.

This performance was one of those truly special performances and shall remain in the memory banks for a very long time to come. If you get the opportunity to see Joseph Tawadros playing live and in the flesh I highly encourage you to take it.

If you’d like to find out more about Joseph, and his newest recording Permission To Evaporate,  head along to his website: http://www.josephtawadros.com/

And I’ll leave you with this clip of Heal……

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