Home Read Albums Of The Week: Shay Hazan | Reclusive Rituals

Albums Of The Week: Shay Hazan | Reclusive Rituals

The Tel Aviv bassist and Guimbri player gets deep into a North African groove — but adds some haunting jazz horns and hip-hop beats — on his exotic, hypnotic offering.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The multi-talented Shay Hazan fuses rubbery North African grooves with haunting jazz horns and hip hop-inflected beats on Reclusive Rituals.

Tel-Aviv musician Hazan is a composer, producer, bassist and bandleader. His versatile bass is frequently heard on national radio, providing the hits of tomorrow with a foundation in the groove. Hazan’s presence has been felt on major international stages having toured with popular hip-hop ensemble Lucille Crew, and fans will have heard his bass lines propelling the grooves of Sandman Project’s breakthrough EP Royal Family. Moreover, Hazan’s straight jazz project The Shay Hazan Quintet has been heavily playlisted and recently released a fast-selling 7”.

Having commenced the album during the first Covid lockdown, this process was a marked departure from previous projects. Whereas he would normally call and gather his band together to record his new compositions live, Hazan would come up with a groove first before sending the parts to a drummer in Berlin or a saxophonist in Tel Aviv to add a complementary rhythm or melody, and then finally editing the results himself. As Hazan puts it, “Technically I had the role of the composer and the producer as well as the Guimbri player. I made this album In order to satisfy the inner urge for simple grooves and the search for a different and new sound that draws inspiration from ancient places with great tradition but still corresponds with the world and the period in which I live and the way I express myself.”

Having already mastered the double and electric bass, Hazan learned how to play the three-stringed Guimbri: A camel-skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa people of North Africa, as heard on their hypnotic music. Hazan repurposes the unique qualities of the instrument with a jazz approach, no doubt inspired somewhat by his introduction to the instrument: “My first acquaintance with the Guimbri was by bassist William Parker, who is not a traditional Gnawan player, but an American musician identified with jazz and improvised music that I have been following for years. Once I saw him play with this thing in a show and my mind exploded. I started researching where it came from and listening to music from Morocco and North Africa.”

The title Reclusive Rituals is inspired by a 1985 Jean-Michel Basquiat interview where he discusses his reclusiveness, the public demand for gossip about well-known figures and how advantageous it can be to stay out of the limelight, as the crowd’s very nature is to eventually turn on their idols. Hazan interpreted this to imply that personal behavioral patterns are affected by the fear of negative responses, often leading to non-action: “Basquiat’s words have been resonating in my head for a long time. I see around me a lot of people who for fear of receiving negative criticism, do not initiate or create anything. And in a certain place, I’m a little scared to be in this place myself and feel the need to keep searching and creating all the time without being influenced by criticism, for better or worse.”

The Guimbri’s natural inclination to groove is instantly felt on the Gnawa-meets-Afrobeat single Afrobeatz, which is destined to play a large role in DJ record bags as dancefloors reopen. But the laidback, beat-driven Deloop and Pink Collar reveal Hazan’s affinity for hip-hop and R&B, in particular the U.K. label Village Life, whose cutting-edge blend of underground jazz and hip-hop was a lockdown favourite.

Reclusive Rituals is an exciting new chapter in Shay Hazan’s career — his most personal, hands-on album to date, fusing his love of jazz, hip-hop, and Gnawan music.”