Two years ago, I reviewed Gordon Grdina’s album Barrel Fire. It was a most aggressive, confrontational album, but I attributed it to the guest appearance of one Mats Gustafsson on saxophone. Grdina’s guitar and oud sounds were working within certain parameters, but this in no way prepared me for his new Haram project, an oud-led jazz ensemble playing middle eastern themes in crouching attack mode. The word “haram” translates to “forbidden”, a good indication of just how precarious Grdina likes his musical hybrids. Apart from a few northern avant-garde standbys, Haram casts an international glance to round out its lineup with percussionists Tim Gerwing and Liam MacDonald, as well as vocalist Emad Armoush, for the group’s remarkably self-assured debut Her Eyes Illuminate.
Gordon Grdina is the first to admit that his limited exposure to this musical form has helped shape the overall sound of the band. If no one is around to teach you jazz oud, what do you do? You make it up, that’s what you do. Her Eyes Illuminate is the starting point of a naive journey into uncharted territory. I say let’s all hitch on.