Maurice El Médioni meets Roberto Rodriguez – Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (2006)

Maurice El Médioni meets Roberto Rodriguez - Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (2006)
Artist: Maurice El Médioni, Roberto Rodriguez
Album: Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions
Genre: World Fusion, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz
Origin: Algeria, Cuba
Released: 2006
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Oran Oran (8:39)
Je n’aime que toi (5:15)
Ana Ouana (9:01)
Oh! Ma belle (5:29)
Tu n’aurais jamais du (7:06)
Moi je t’aime toujours (6:41)
Malika (7:06)
Comme tu as change (5:32)
C’etait il y a longtemps (7:26)


On first thought, one might be hard-pressed to find a common ground between Algerian raï music and Latin jazz. But for the pianist Maurice el Medioni, an Algerian-born Jew who left his home for France decades ago as an exile, and the Cuban-born, New York-based percussionist Roberto Rodriguez, the link connecting North Africa and Cuba is a direct one — by way of Spanish Andalusia. World music fusion exercises are more common all the time, and cultural distinctions often become so blurred that the sources are obscured rather than accented. Not on Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions, though: a septuagenarian at the time this was recorded, el Medioni’s so-called “PianOriental” keyboard lines find the ideal balance between his raï heritage — the flamenco-influenced pop-folk style originated in Oran, Algeria and was in large part popularized by el Medioni — and the more familiar Afro-Cuban rhythms in which Rodriguez excels. The compositions all emanate from el Medioni, who first played Latin music as a teenager when Puerto Rican soldiers sat in with him in the cafes of Oran. But perhaps because Rodriguez arranged and produced the session, and presumably brought in the supporting musicians, the set tends to tilt more toward the Latin half of the equation than the North African. Instruments native to both Cuba (trés) and North Africa (darbuka) are incorporated into the mix, and elements of Spanish, French, and Jewish idioms all pop in and out. But the album’s generous reliance on Latin-style trumpet soloing, Rodriguez’s swinging rhythms, and el Medioni’s career-long interest in Latin music, anchors the jams and never takes them too far from the island whose music has so influenced these players. It’s an invigorating, inspired pairing, for sure, and one that makes even more sense when heard than when presented theoretically on paper.
Review by Jeff Tamarkin