Joseph Tawadros

505, May 6

Photo supplied.

It’s the sort of sound they might outlaw in certain countries as being against the best interests of some deity. Joseph Tawadros’s oud has been surrounded, cushioned or jostled by instrumentation ranging from organ to banjo to the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and most often by James Tawadros’s percussion and Matt McMahon’s piano. But a button accordion and a trombone?

These two potent instruments complete Tawadros’s new quintet on the Truth Seekers Lovers & Warriors album launched at this concert. James Crabb is a virtuoso classical accordionist best known for his Piazzolla interpretations, who executed the more fiendish of Tawadros’s challenging compositions with commendable precision and notable dynamic control, although he was a less assured improviser. James Greening is among the world’s finest jazz trombonists. His ability to articulate a melody like that of Odd Tango beggared belief, and his improvising swelled the night’s highlights.

Some of Tawadros’s ensemble parts for trombone were rather like cello lines, and perhaps no trombonist alive was more capable of imbuing those lines with the sumptuousness or poignancy that a cello would offer. When combined with the accordion, oud, piano and req or bendir, the plumpness of Greening’s sound made for a massive sonic beast; indeed some arrangements cried out for respite from having the whole quintet in heaving action.

The solo, duo and trio pieces provided more scope to tune in on Tawadros’s beauty of timbre. The oud is hardly renowned for its sustain, yet he could make some notes linger in the air like the fragrance of a woman who has passed, while also melding virtuosic exactitude with raw fire at an astonishing level.

For all the drama of the fast pieces, however, the band’s finest work often came when the tempos were slower, and one could relish James Tawadros’s tone on the bendir or McMahon’s graceful contributions.

The quintet also excelled on Tawadros compositions not penned specifically for it, suggesting that this was the first performance by a band brimming with potential.