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My first instrument was a Yamaha CS-100 nylon string acoustic guitar. As far as I know, that guitar is still in my dad's closet, unused and unloved. It's a shame really, but, you know, life goes on. In contrast to the tale of my late lamented Yamaha, FATTAH ABBOU's first instrument is still in commission. It's way cooler than any guitar I've ever touched and now it's in the truly capable hands of MOHAMED AOULOU.

These two musicians put on a simply astounding evening's worth of music at the Cayuga Vault last Saturday night. They confidently and beautifully explored a plethora of musical traditions from their native Morocco.

Mohamed and Fattah are a truly amazing pair of musicians to watch. Unlike so many mismatched musicians (I'm looking at you, GARFUNKEL) these two musicians perfectly complement each other's work. They catch each other's vocal lines, their harmonies are amazing and their instrumental work is truly top-notch. I have no idea how they sing and play those complicated melodies together. I also have no idea how to count some of their rhythms, and judging by some of the painfully bad clapping in the house, neither did most of the audience.

Though most of the evening was in duet format, AZA members ANDY ZENCZAK and ALEX WORK put in appearances, as did stand-up bassist PETER NOVEMBRE. I thought that Andy's playing was really impressive throughout the evening. He plays with the kind of determination and solidness that only comes from lots of gigs in short succession over a long period of time. In other words, home-boy throws down, even in really weird time signatures. Solid sauce.

Mohamed and Fatah played a whole lot of new material that they are preparing for the next Aza record, and it is an impressive collection of work. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the project's material, and I'm thrilled that these musicians make their home where I do.

Supergroup Salvation

Supergroups scare me. Yes, they do. There is no way on God's green earth that you are going to get me to go see four famous rock musicians try to outdo each other on the wank scale. Similarly, most jazz supergroups are an exercise more in collective ego that collective improvisation. So it was a nice change of pace on Monday to go see a jazz group with some truly heavy names that didn't spend all night trying to outdo each other. The MICHAEL BRECKER/ROY HARGROVE/HERBIE HANCOCK juggernaut DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC put on a musically interesting evening that relied more on composition and cooperation than ejaculation. Hargrove was especially impressive. Actually, he was really goddamn impressive. Wow.

Featuring arrangements of new material and pop songs reworked to such a degree as to be unrecognizable, the compositional quality of the evening was really quite high. These guys are masters, and thankfully, they seem to be happy creating great music together. Smiling was a theme among the musicians all night, and that just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

My only complaint was that for all these guys' talent, no one has told them that MIDI is really dorky most of the time. Especially presets that you could find on a Casio in model year 1984. I am in no way, shape or form against electronic music, I just think that the Moog trumps that Midiman any day of the week.

GWAR! What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

I waited most of the latter half of last week for an interview with GWAR, who play the Catalyst Thursday. Unfortunately, those Scumbags of the Universe never granted my 15 minutes of their time. I was looking forward to a lively conversation about killing dinosaurs and raping apes and other aspects of the GWAR creation myth. We were going to talk about the logistics of playing guitar with a half-disemboweled corpse slung on your belt, and whether or not these latex-covered self-described interstellar space pirates are really from Canada or not.

This posse of perverts have long been the Gallaghers of rock, and I for one can't wait to see the debauchery up close. I just hope that when GWAR comes to ravish and bloody our town that I will be spared from the more pointy parts of their machines of war. See you there, my fellow lowly zit-ridden scum of outcast pre-pubescence.

Peter Koht

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From the February 16-23, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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