Venue: Black Gate Club at the Galway Jazz Festival (Eire) Date: October 5th, 2017
Review by Fiona Mactaggart
The subdued lighting of the basement venue is well suited to this thoughtful and measured set, the small space only intensifying the calming effect of the delicate and beautiful melodies traced by pianist Tuomas A Turunen over a web spun by drummer and band leader, Emil Brandqvist.
In this part of the Jazz and Islam Series, I will provide a perspective on the growth of Islam among American jazz musicians.
Many of the earlier converts to Islam worked at raising money to bring Muslim / Sufi teachers to the USA. Talib Daoud and his wife, singer Dakota Staton (a.k.a. Aliyah Rabia) taught Islam in Philadelphia, PA. She also opened a store in New York City that sold African art and wares, and Islamic books and supplies. An Egyptian man named Sheikh Mahmoud Hassan Rabwan taught Islam and Arabic there. In the New York area a few Muslim owned venues, mostly restaurants, opened that featured musical performances. These included “The East” and “The House of Peace.” Mosques such as the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood used to hold benefit concerts, which featured performers such as Alice Coltrane, and others. Later, a performance venue opened by saxophonist, composer, bandleader, teacher, and mentor Muhammad Salahuddin (1930-2004) called “The University of the Streets” featured performances, workshops, and music instruction.
There exists little historical documentation of the music and musicians of Islamic culture indigenous to the United States of America. For this reason, I decided to write this series. While this is in no way comprehensive, it should serve as a brief introduction to the much neglected subject of Muslim’s contributions to jazz.
I was unfamiliar with Ochion Jewell when I was first asked to review Volk. I did a little digging on his website and elsewhere. I found a quote he put on his bio page that spoke volumes: ““Growing up in Appalachian Kentucky without any music venues led to a strong connection to the inherent music of nature. No matter where I go, I can still feel the honesty of that place as the foundation of my art and who I am.” Jewell’s training and experience, first in classical music, then in jazz and improvised music, not to mention his work as a sideman with the likes of Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Gregory Hines, Kid Rock, Meatloaf, George Strait, Crystal Gayle, and Michael McDonald, were instrumental in forming a unique musical personality.