So May 20th was a holiday in several nations including, Cambodia, East Timor and Cameroon. It was also the birthday of a Tunisian jazz piano player, Wajdi Cherif!! Knowing nothing about his music, other than that he played piano, I went to Spotify and listened to his 2009 release Fuzzy Colours and I didn’t have to listen long to become intrigued by and enjoy his music. Returning to All About Jazz, I discovered that at five years of age Wajdi was learning to play tunes he heard on the radio in his homeland of Tunisia on his little piano. Wajdi never lost his love for music and along his life’s journey, he earned his BA in English Literature, but more importantly he discovered jazz!! At the American cultural center in Tunis, he watched live performance videos of pianists Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans. He soon decided to make jazz music his career, and set out exploring it on his own. He made his professional debut in 1998. In 2003, he released his first album Phrygian Istikhbar in Paris. Accompanying Wajdi on the album were Diego Imbert on acoustic bass, Jeff Boudreau on drums and Habib Samandi on Arabic percussion. The album went on to become a finalist in the Indie Acoustic Awards in the USA in 2004!! From All About Jazz:
Three years later, Wajdi Cherif recorded his second album entitled Jasmine with some of the finest young French jazz musicians, released in 2006 in France. “Jasmine” shows the maturity and excellent artistic standard that pianist and composer Wajdi Cherif has accomplished so far (Honorable Mention in the International Songwriting Competition (Judges included Sonny Rollins ,John Scofield, Steve Vai…), Indie Acoustic Project winner Best CD of 2005, UNISONG songwriting Contest 1st place winner…).
Wajdi’s music has been described as…..
… a fusion of the modern jazz piano styles ranging from Thelonious MONK to Keith JARRET and Chick COREA, but at the same time with the influence of the colorful melodies of Arabic music that he was exposed to since his early childhood. All this resulted in the creation of a brand new jazz sound, a symbiosis of jazz and Arabic sounds. Read More
Not surprising, since it was watching performances of Monk and Corea that set him on the path to a career in jazz. I started this post saying that I listened to his 2009 release Fuzzy Colours, which I really enjoyed, From what I’ve read and from quick listens to his first two albums it seems that Middle Eastern influences are less prominent on this album than his earlier albums, particularly his first. From The Voice Magazine….
The Arabic influence and instrumentation is a little more salient on Jasmine than on Fuzzy Colours, with the oud and the percussion instruments granting a delicious texture to the improvisations, but in Fuzzy Colours (which also incorporates Latin sounds) Cherif has incorporated Arabic modes into his compositions and has revived, as is the wont of many Maghreb and Maghreb-influenced players, tunes penned eons ago by jazz greats like Gillespie (“A Night in Tunisia”), Juan Tizol (“Caravan”), and Miles Davis (“Nardis”), highlighting his awareness of the natural understanding that Arabic music shares with jazz. Fuzzy Colours has brought remarkably lively interpretations to these standards and Cherif’s own compositions have beautiful melody lines and an innovative élan while sitting squarely within the jazz tradition. Read More
So Happy Belated Birthday Wajdi!! And check out this fine pianist and composer and his latest album – Fuzzy Colours Here is a performance by the Wajdi Cherif Electric Quartet with Manu Codjia sitting in on guitar…….