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Natacha Atlas: Strange Days

review natacha atlas x1 cong

Atlas is from Egypt and this album sees her meld her roots with jazz. It’s a beautifully recorded selection of tracks that drifts into easy listening — the gentlest it goes is a bit late night, with an interesting fusion of sounds and instrumentation.

Atlas began her career as part of the world fusion group Transglobal Underground. In 1995, she began to focus on her solo career; her previous album Myriad Road was released in 2015, produced by French Lebanese jazz musician Ibrahim Maalouf. Born in Brussels, after her parents split up she lived in Northampton. She grew up speaking French and English, and later learned Arabic and Spanish.

She has a smooth blues voice, ideal for singing laid back jazz. First song Out Of Time is more towards the late night jazz, with some lovely piano from Alcyona Mick (The Spatial AKA Orchestra), though she throws in few Arab vocal embellishments.

Track two Maktoub, as can be gathered, is more Arabian, and a tasty tune it is. Drummers Asif Sirkis and Laurie Lowe share the work so the music has a genuine rhythmic feel wherever it comes from. Min Baad is slow jazz but with a solo from cellist Ivan Hussey using Arabian scales. Sunshine Days has a more Astrid Gilberto / Brazilian samba feel.

Elsewhere, Words Of A King features singer Joss Stone, a more commercial song, although Stone’s more powerful vocals take away some of the charm. It’s A Man’s World gets a slow treatment and strings, James Brown’s line about it all being “nothing without a woman” gets more bite.

Certainly an album for fans of jazz, as the Arab influence makes it more interesting; fans of world might find it too easy listening and chilled.

Out now on Whirlwind Recordings, WR4744.


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