Dhafer Youssef

"Diwan of Beauty and Odd"

(Okeh); Jazz/World

By ​Phil ​Bennett

An extraordinary talent, Dhafer Youssef, as well as being blessed with the voice of a high flying bird, is breathtakingly adept at the oud, an instrument he plays with equal parts precision and soulful connection with its evocative tones.

On his latest album he has teamed up with a choice group of young New York jazzers, all of whom are at the top of their game and heading skywards, and, though rooted in that genre, crosses back and forth from East to West, with his love for Sufi music, particularly Qawwali, oozing through these pieces.

Sometimes crossover albums don’t quite hit the mark, but this one, perhaps because of the players’ true affinity for the locked in groove, touch that sweet spot with just the right balance of sensitivity and simple joy of being able to play so well.

Delightfully Odd snakecharms its way around the air, Youssef’s oud strings slithering in sensual union with Aaron Parks’ piano lines, each dancing around each other in their own ways but always together in harmony, while Al-Akhtal Rhapsody is a tour de force in 3 parts. Replete with razor sharp drumming, big beautiful basslines, sonically sublime oud/piano conversations and soaring honeyed vocalising, it takes you on an hypnotic trip to some startling places.

Elsewhere, there’s the curiously metered rhythms and feverish trumpeting of Cheerful Messhugah to turn your head around while the slow building beauty of Fly Shadow Fly serves as the perfect introduction to the talents and treasures that lay ahead.

Melodic and hummable enough to please the passing ear, possessed of the artistry and skill required to tickle jazz fans and exploratory enough to open doors of musical possibilities, Diwan of Beauty and Odd is indeed a thing of beauty and fascinating strangeness.


​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.