Jazz & Blues Magazine reviews Ahmed Warshanna

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Ahmed Warshanna CD Cover

Born into an Egyptian-American family, guitaristcomposer
Ahmed Warshanna debuts with “Ishta.” While
Ahmed calls this an EP, the performances of his five
compositions total around 44 minutes, which would
have been a full LP in vinyl jazz days. His late mother
brought music into his life, introducing him to Frank
Sinatra as well as Egyptian music. Warshanna’s mother
was dying while this recording was coming together,
and writing the music was a manner of honoring her.
The Baltimore-based Warshanna leads a sextet
comprised of pianist Josh Miller, bassist Thomas Owens,
drummer Charlie Seda, trumpeter Hart Guonjian-
Pettit, tenor saxophonist Dominic Ellis, and trombonist
Daniel Sperlein. Warshanna modeled the instrumentation
for his group after Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers,
particularly the sextet on the live recording “Ugetsu.”
The compositions themselves bring together Egyptian
Arabic music with jazz.

While the cover credits all five tunes to Warshanna,
the first two songs are his arrangements of works from
Umm Kulthum. “Inty Omry” opens with his guitar, and
the horns open the song as Miller lays down some
dark chords before laying down a memorable theme.
Saxophonist Ellis takes a robust solo on this, after
which Warshanna displays his considerable skill as a
guitarist along with imagination, and clean tone. The
other Kulthum song, “Alf Leila,” opens briskly with
Guonjian-Pettit’s muted trumpet leading the septet with
the leader’s horn-like guitar adding another voice to
the horns. Again, Ellis solos with a burly, if dry tone,
followed by Sperlein’s blustery trombone, Guonjian-
Pettit’s trumpet, and the leader’s deft guitar with the
rhythm section swinging and ably handling the transition
to a slower tempo. “Samaka” is an adaptation of
an Egyptian children’s song. Played at an easy-going,
relaxed gait, Guonjian-Pettit’s use of a mute lends a
Miles Davis feel, followed by well-structured solos by
Warshanna and Ellis.

Two tracks are more in the jazz tradition. “Asra’” is
a blues with adjustments from Arabic harmonic theory.
It is a blues played by Warshanna and his rhythm
section, taken at a walking tempo, with Warshanna’s
slowly increasing in its intensity. Wayne Shorter is
the inspiration to Warshanna for the final selection,
“Intisar.” It is another showcase for Ellis’ tenor’s big
tone and use of dynamics in developing and shaping
his solo. He is followed by the leader’s nuanced solo
and bassist Owens’ solo. These selections are the final
numbers in a first-rate debut recording of terrific songs
and ear-catching playing. Ron Weinstock

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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