Renowned Swizz pianist/composer George Gruntz became entranced by the music of the North African Maghreb on his 1964 visit to Tunisia. Over the next few years he revisited the area, taking in the melodies, rhythms, and improvisational styles of a Bedouin music rooted in 1000 years of nomadic culture. With the intent of integrating this music with jazz, Gruntz assembled the crème of the Bedouin players and a top-flight group of like-minded jazz musicians. Sahle, the divine demon who gave voice and song to the people of the desert, serves as a brief vocal introduction to the meat of the album, Gruntz’s six-movement Maghreb Contata. In the first movement, Tikhbar, the musicians get to know each other in this cohering group improvisation. The Ghitta is both a rhythm and a name for the African oboe, played here by the instrument’s leading exponent, Moktar Slama, with soprano and nay (bamboo flute) joining in on this passionate percussive mix. The Alaji rhythm features a duo between French violin great Jean-Luc Ponty and bassist Eberhard Weber. On the meditative pastoral Djerbi Salah El Mahdi improvises on the nay with impressive piano backing. The pulsating M’rabaa rhythm features outstanding oboe and soprano solos. The Contata continues with Buanuara (the man who carries the flower) with its intense climax of cross-rhythms and mixture of solo and group play, and Fazani, a Bedouin theme transformed into jazz riff as percussion and wind instruments pound out their impression of the Maghreb. Nemeit, the “Song of Loneliness”, combines North African song form and modern jazz harmonies as a fitting end to this amalgam of music fired in the heat and passion of North Africa.