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JOSEPH TAWADROS​ ★★★★

Oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros. 4 May 2018. Photo:?Lara Bohdanowicz

Photo: Lara Bohdanowicz

Blue Mountains Theatre, May 4

Reviewed by JOHN SHAND

You know when you turn the gas down low, so the flame has that singular violet luminescence? Joseph Tawadros's​ solo oud features have that quality. Like a cello, the instrument has an innate, dignified melancholy. Meanwhile Tawadros​ crafts a note's shape and weight, along with the spaces between them, so each is more a sentence than a word, and sometimes as a note hangs in the air, and he slides his finger down the neck and the pitch falls away, the effect is so intense that one half expects a tear to well from the sound holes.

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But Tawadros​ has many on-stage guises beyond the one who makes his oud weep. There's also the player who makes the instrument spit and fizz on faster improvisations, the perfectionist who articulates his sinuous compositions with precision (and expects no less from his band) and the collaborator who delights in interaction and his band-mates' contributions. Finally there is the natural clown who can't help but pile anecdote on funny anecdote between songs, sometimes until the music starts to play third fiddle to the sit-down comedy routine.

This performance began a national tour for the London-based Tawadros​, and launched his latest album, The Bluebird, the Mystic and the Fool, made with the new combination of pianist Matt McMahon, clarinettist Dimitri​ Vouros​, bassist Karl Dunnicliff​ and percussionist James Tawadros​. All are previous Tawadros​ alumni, with McMahon and James being rusted-on associates, and it was this pair that particularly shone.

Beyond his flying solos, McMahon's ability to extrapolate possibilities from a simple harmony was exquisite, like putting frosting on glass, while James's req solo on Bluegrass Nikriz​ set the bar ever higher for his powers of rhythmic, melodic and textural invention. If Dunnicliff​ and Vouros​ were less assured and assertive, their cause was not helped by mixing that was slow to pick up on focus-shifts to their instruments, and they are likely to grow into the music as the tour continues.

Joseph Tawadros​ Quintet: Camelot Lounge, May 10.

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John Shand

John Shand has written about music and theatre since 1981 in more than 30 publications, including for Fairfax Media since 1993. He is also a playwright, author, poet, librettist, drummer and winner of the 2017 Walkley Arts Journalism Award

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