Atlas Maior – Riptide

Album Review | Atlas Maior Music | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

Based in Austin, Texas, Atlas Maior, named for the masterpiece of Dutch cartography, explore a wealth of musical influences, notably Arab, Turkish, Indian and Latin American, together with home grown jazz courtesy of the alto sax of Joshua Thomson.  The eleven instrumental pieces draw from a deep well of styles, most prominently the familiar maqamat modal style, which effectively draws attention to Thomson’s sparring with Charlie Lockwood’s oud explorations. It’s almost like taking the ‘duelling banjos’ theme to another level altogether.  If “The Curse” exemplifies this from the start, with each instrument striving to outdo one another in a highly competitive show of dexterity, then nowhere is this feuding instrument notion better captured than on the album closer, the sprawling “Osman Pehlivan”, which features guest oud player Palestine’s Sari Andoni, who provides Lockwood with an ideal sparring partner.

If the oud takes precedence in a number of places throughout Riptide, then “Nastaran” is a showcase for one of Thomson’s alto sax workouts, whilst “Chamber of Mirrors” introduces for one track only, the cinematic violin playing of guest musician Robert Paolo Riggio, which brings tension to the piece with a capital T.  Riptide is full of musical ingenuity and dexterity, held together by Ted Camat in the drum seat and double bass duties split between Gary Calhoun James and Tarik Hassan.

Choice Track: “The Curse” (NSV 488)