Austin, TX – Atlas Maior, the critically acclaimed Progressive jazz and world music group, announces the release of two new singles featuring renowned Pakistani vocalist Ali Pervez Mehdi. The first single “Nazuk,” which is out September 25th, is a new take on ghazal singer Ustad Pervez Mehdi’s song (Ali Pervez Mehdi’s father) that is accompanied by an intimate video (https://youtu.be/KMzYLSpTn8s) that captures the collaboration. “Ya Ali” follows on October 16th and is an original song written between Atlas Maior and Ali Pervez Mehdi.
Atlas Maior had a breakthrough 2019 year with the release of their full-length Riptide, which garnered positive reviews from international and national media outlets (Songlines, NPR, Jazz Journal U.K, Medium) as well as prominent placements on official Spotify playlists including “State of Jazz.” The band, which is led by Joshua Thomson (alto saxophone) and Josh Peters, kept the momentum going into 2020 with European and an East Coast/Midwest tours booked, until COVID-19 hit. The band came to the conclusion that the importance of togetherness, artistic creativity, and community is far more important now than ever. The decision to release and share these two singles embodies this sentiment.
Atlas Maior and Ali Pervez Mehdi’s collaboration came to fruition over Joshua Thomson’s Friendsgiving BBQ in 2018, where the two expressed interest in working together. Fast forward to 2019 and they finally made it into King Electric Studio (Austin, TX) to record “Nazuk” and later in the year “Ya Ali.”
Joshua Thomson elaborates, “we wanted to compose a pair of compositions that reflected the bond between us as musicians, while creating a new sonic experience for our audiences. All of us were able to reach outside of our comfort zones, and were able to embrace one another’s cultural and musical differences. During the process of creating this music, all of us were completely open to what one another brought to the table. This music represents the spirit of multiculturalism, imagination within our hearts, and the creative synergy that unites us.”
“Nazuk” is a composition that takes its lyrics from the 19th-century Punjabi Sufi poet Khawaja Farid of the Indian subcontinent. Farid, a prolific scholar and writer within multiple languages, belonged to the Chishti-Nizami Sufi order. The creation of “Nazuk” is informed by Ali Pervez Mehdi’s father, famous ghazal singer Ustad Pervez Mehdi, and the classical Sufi music and poetry form known as Kafi. “Nazuk” is sung in the language of ‘Saraiki. The song was rearranged & re-conceptualized by Joshua Thomson (alto saxophone), and Josh Peters (oud – Middle Eastern fret-less lute) and features Ali Pervez Mehdi on vocals, and piano. The track is bolstered by a rhythm section that includes the talents of Gary Calhoun James (double bass), and Aaron Parks (drums). “Nazuk” was co-produced by Peters, Pervez, & Thomson, mixed by Gary Calhoun James, & mastered by Carl Saff.
“Ya Ali” sung in Panjabi is a tune originally inspired by Ali Farka Toure, a musical influence on Ali Pervez Mehdi at the time. Atlas Maior composed a 12/8 section using the Colombian currulao, as a nod to the African Diaspora, but very different from a Farka Toure song energy wise. “The idea here was to write an Atlas Maior piece for Ali to sing, in a way, and in a context that was very different for him. “We wanted to create a song for him to improvise within, that challenged him musically and the entire band. I think we achieved that,” states Thomson. “Ya Ali” is a tune that draws on multiple music traditions and uses tools found in Pakistani ghazal, Colombian, Afro-Cuban, and progressive jazz.
Although live touring is on pause, Atlas Maior has stayed active and is closing in on 20+ livestreams, and has shifted focus towards new compositions and towards alternatives strategies of sustainability. They continue to give back to communities with fundraisers for Black Lives Matters (Austin Justice Coalition, Black Young People) through livestreams, and contributed to the NO MORE SILENCE VOL 1 compilation, and recently did a fundraiser for NGO Beit El Baraka for the people affected by the explosion in Beirut Lebanon. The current socio-political climate continues to inform them, and during COVID they’ve been able to take the time to be more introspective about their work, and the meaning and message behind it. Releases “Nazuk,” and “Ya Ali” definitely represent this.
The band concludes, “’Nazuk’ and ‘Ya Ali,’ is dedicated to our fans, loved ones, and friends who are struggling to cope with the rapid changes happening in the world around us. Creating these songs was a beautiful and enriching experience for all of us. We need this beauty right now more than ever to serve as beacon of light through these dark times.”