Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
May 10, 2021 - 4:06pm EDT
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

Based in Baltimore, guitarist Ahmed Warshanna holds a degree in Jazz Studies, and his debut album Ishta demonstrates his unique compositional and arranging skills informed by a passion for combining element of both the East and West into his music. The five tracks, each ranging from 7-10 minutes in length, create aural experiences that range from plaintive (“Azra’”) to exhilarating (“Intisar”). The first two tracks, Warshanna’s arrangements of classics by Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, set the stage with intrigue, using Middle Eastern scales with resonant chords and rhythmic percussive sounds. Arranged for septet, the guitarist’s music also showcases the musicianship of Hart Guonjian-Pettit (trumpet), Dominic Ellis (tenor), Daniel Sperlein (trombone), Joshua Miller (piano), Thomas Owens (bass) and Charlie Seda (drums). Kulthum was known to sing her songs at length and in depth, and Warshanna takes a similar approach with his septet’s instruments. Ishta has plenty of atmospheric instrumental dynamics, but perhaps some vocals and ud could’ve been used to make them even more mysterious. Warshanna’s music may be rooted in the organic Egyptian earth, but it also conveys his uncompromising, honest desire to make a transcendent contemporary statement. The album is a tribute to Ahmed’s mother who passed away in 2021. She brought music into his life, and he acknowledges that this music was inspired by her and that she’ll live on through his music. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)