Maurice Louca — Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour)

Jason Ferguson
2 min readSep 24, 2021

Qobuz new release review (Sept. 2021)

https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/album/saet-el-hazz-the-luck-hour-maurice-louca/mx3wmld62teia

Egyptian guitarist Maurice Louca has, with Saet El-Hazz, produced a dizzying, consequential, and ultimately unclassifiable piece of work. With roots thrust deep into multiple soils — free jazz, contemporary electro-acoustic composition, traditional Middle Eastern musical forms — this is a dense and complex piece that is occasionally difficult, but consistently dynamic. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes long, Saet El-Hazz is a single piece, divided into six movements and highly improvised, with Louca working alongside two core groups of gifted musicians. One is the Lebanese “A” Trio, renowned for their improvisational skills on prepared instruments (trumpet, guitar, double bass). The other — playing percussion, cello, and harp — is a bespoke group of collaborators Louca put together specifically for this project. These seven players jell seamlessly throughout the piece’s six movements, from the opening intensity and sonic chaos of “El-Fazza’ah (The Slip and Slide)” through more hypnotic and occasionally pastoral moments like “Higamah (Hirudinea),” blurring the line between forcefulness and introspection. Throughout, Saet El-Hazz alternates between feeling like a one-take improv explosion and an intricately composed and meticulously constructed masterwork; in the end, it is both and neither. When the players start firing on all cylinders, as on “Yara’ (Fire Flies),” the emotional intensity can be a bit overwhelming; it’s noisy and free, but deeply engaging and welcoming. Although Louca is certainly known for being a talented guitarist, his role here seems more like a curator or conductor. Even on a track like “El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue),” where his delicate playing seems to be the focal point, it ultimately is rendered into a cyclical loop to support an improvisational tour de force from guest saxophonist Devin Brahja. This happens throughout the album; motion and momentum imperceptibly shift the mood and texture of the piece, so while a piece like “El Fazaa’ah” may start off sounding like a chaotic barrage of electronic industrial ambience, it winds up being a much more beautiful and sturdy piece of acoustic musicianship. As a whole the listener is taken on a similarly rich voyage, one that’s insistent and dissonant one moment, hypnotic and introspective the next. A truly impressive feat. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz

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Jason Ferguson

I endorse listening to 45s, Florida summers, Bollywood, soccer, and people who are smarter than I am. I write and edit things.