There’s nothing forced about the fusion on Tajine. The Mo’Rockin Project’s second CD takes its title from a North African clay pot in which meat and vegetables are slowly cooked to produce a tender, aromatic stew. The five Bay Area African Americans — trumpeter Khalil Shaheed, saxophonist Richard Howell, keyboardist Glen Pearson, bassist Ron Belcher, and drummer Deszon Claiborne — and two Casablancans — string players Yassir Chadly and Bouchaibe Abdelhadi — who comprise the band likewise create a seamless, ultimately satisfying blend of American jazz and blues with traditional Moroccan musical flavors.
Miles Davis’ ’70s fusion sometimes comes to mind, especially when leader Shaheed solos on open or muted horn and Howell blows serpentine sheets of sound on soprano or tenor over the rhythm section’s undulating, complexly syncopated grooves. Yet trills played by the two Moroccans on lute-like ouds and the bass-clef lines picked by Chadly on gembri give the music a new international twist. Deep spiritual feelings flow through the nine tunes, even the twelve-bar “Blues for Yusef,” which borrows some of its melody from “A Love Supreme.”
Chadly and Abdelhadi sing in Moroccan much of the time. Howell takes the helm in English for his devotional “Hamideen,” crooning in a honey-toned tenor that conjures up how Marvin Gaye might have sounded fronting Abdullah Ibrahim’s band. The music is not without humor, however, as when Chadly briefly switches to English on “Sidi Jabber,” paraphrasing Stephen Foster with I come from Casablanca with a gembri on my knee. (Princeton Park Music)