Show #153: The Oud, Lute, and Guitar; Also, Remembering Gato Barbieri

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blog-spacerThis week’s show is divided into two parts. In the first half, we hear tracks to compare three solo plucked instruments — the oud, the lute, and the guitar. Then we feature three songs by Latin jazz saxophonist Leandro “Gato” Barbieri, who passed away recently. I reminisced about my 1977 interview with Gato in a blog post earlier this week.

The oud, the lute, and the guitar all come from same musical family. The oud is the oldest of them all, going back thousands of years. The oud (also called ud) typically has 10-12 strings, is unfretted, and is played with a feather.  It is an Arabic instrument often featured in middle eastern, Persian as well as Turkish music. It is unfretted so the musician can play quarter tones–the notes in between the 12 notes we get in the western scale. We hear a track by the great Iraqi musician Munir Bachir playing a taksim/maqam, the style of melodic musical improvisation that characterizes oud music. Maqam refers to the system of melodic modes typical of Arabic music. The oud is played with an eagle feather.

The lute descends from the oud, and was brought to Europe by the moors in the 9th century. Later it was adapted to baroque European music by the installing of frets, which made it more compatible with western scales. It has far more strings than the oud, typically 15 to 24. The lute is fretted, unlike the oud, and is suited for the Western classical idiom, in this case the music of Bach. The lute is also played with a feather.

The guitar is the most modern instrument in this family. It has six strings, is also fretted, and is played either finger style (classical, flamenco & folk music) or with a plectrum (pick) for other styles.

Besides Munir Bachir, to whom I was introduced 30 years ago by French guitarist Pierre Bensusan, we hear lutenist Hopkinson Smith play a movement from Bach’s cello suite #1 transcribed for lute, followed by the great Andres Segovia playing the iconic Albeniz piece Leyenda.

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Gato Barbieri (at far right) with his wife Michelle and former KCRW DJ Gary Vercelli in the 1970s. Gary gave Tom his first on-air show at KCRW. Photo courtesy of Gary Vercelli.
Next we remember Gato Barbieri with a musical triptych: the hot track “El Parana,” then a ballad from Last Tango in Paris, and finally “Tupac Amaru,” a cut named after a legendary Incan figure, a piece I’ve always liked, from Gato’s album Fenix.

Enjoy the show!

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 4/8/16:

1. Munir Bachir / “Taqsîm en maqâm: Râst” / Iraq – Irak : The Art of the ‘ûd / Ocora Radio-France

2. Hopkinson Smith / “Bach: Sonata #1 Presto” / Bach Hopkinson Smith Sonatas & Partitas / Astree

3. Andres Segovia / “Albeniz: Leyenda” / The Legendary Andrés Segovia: My Favorite Works / MCA

4. Gato Barbieri / “El Parana” / Under Fire / Flying Dutchman (vinyl); Ace Records (MP3)

5. Gato Barbieri / “Fake Ophelia” / Last Tango In Paris OST / Ryko; Pioneer

6. Gato Barbieri / “Tupac Amaru” / Fenix / Flying Dutchman; BGP; Ace Records (MP3)

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