Published May 18, 2015Joshua Abrams has put together an amazing sextet — harmonium, two drummers, electric guitar, autoharp/organ and, of course, his own guimbri and double bass. For this event he also added Hamid Drake to the mix. Drake is an old friend who plays on Abrams' album, but rarely appears with him out of town. So this was a special evening in a lot of ways.
The guimbri is a three-stringed, skin-covered bass lute, and is a big part of Gnawa musical culture; not many Americans have mastered it, but it has a great sound that can be used either for melodic work or as a tuned rhythm generator. Abrams uses his in both ways, although for this show, the latter was more often the case. A pulse was almost always present, swirling like the ecstatic drone centre one finds at the core of Joujoukan pipe music.
Unlike the new album, which has a lot of electric guitar and harmonium up in the mix, this set was a true trance-out. Drake's hand drums worked fantastically in this context, and all the musicians created a whorl of sounds that would not stop. Wild stuff.