Does knowing that one person plays 52 instruments on an album skew the way one hears the music? It shouldn’t, but it can. Oud maestro Joseph Tawadros here plays a plethora of strings, woodwinds, brass, keyboards and percussion, while his brother James incorporates a further 11 percussion devices. Inevitably Tawadros’s proficiency across the array is uneven, which is partly the point: after years of go-anywhere virtuosity on the oud a certain simplicity is dictated by what he can achieve on a sarod, kalimba or trumpet, for instance.
Forget all that, immerse yourself in the music, and the good news is that Tawadros’s qualities as composer and improviser – gorgeous melodies; hazes of melancholy and mystery from which explode sudden blazes of excitement; transcendence of idiom – all remain, only now scored for a broader palette of colours. Generally avoiding clutter, he plays a just handful of instruments on each composition, such as oud, Portuguese guitar, viola and cello with James’s req on the evocative Al Andalus, and on two pieces he even sings to striking effect.