Omar Rahbany – Passport

Album Review | Rahbany Yahia Productions | Review by Liam Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Three years in the making, Omar Rahbany’s Passport is a treat for the senses from a Lebanese pianist and composer who is yet to reach his thirtieth year.  The treat begins within the act of opening the CD’s exquisite packaging with its book-like binding, thick textural pages, colourful digital illustrations and inviting track-listings; it’s a tantalisingly tactile experience that leads the listener comfortably, and somewhat excitedly, towards the music.  Blending jazz and classical with Arabic and Lebanese folk influences whilst addressing the socio-political climate of the Middle East, Rahbany’s debut release swoops ambitiously between the grand instrumental orchestral arrangements of “Overture” and “Umbrella Woman” and such enchanting jazz and folk pieces as “Zook: The Power Station” and “Mouthwashahat”.  There are sprinklings of tangos, flamencos and some enchanting vocal pieces such as the dramatic “Anarkia” as well as moments of exceptional sparing beauty, especially during “Trip to the Moon” when Rahbany’s piano takes centre stage.  With shades of Pat Metheny, Wim Mertens and even George Gershwin, Passport is an expansive and often cinematic work from an exciting young artist.  Whilst Rahbany’s compositional artistry is the real star of this extraordinarily ambitious project, almost two hundred individuals contributed to the making of Passport, most notably its lead musicians such as accordionist Tony Dib, bassist Steve Rodby (a member of the Pat Metheny Group) and percussionist Raymond Hage.  The album’s producers, Rahbany and Mahdi Yahya as well as conductor Volodymyr Strenko should also be commended for the success of managing the sheer magnitude of this impressive project.