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June 9, 2024

Not content to explore merely one musical style, Atlas Maior’s music takes the listener on a world tour -- from bop to Brazil, with excursions to the Middle East, India, and Africa on a journey of experimentation and discovery. Employing rhythmic motifs influenced by the maqamat modal system, the quintet works in elements from these different musical traditions while playing familiar instruments like saxophone to more “exotic” instruments like the tabla (India), the oud, lavta, and dumbek from the Middle East, and the cajón from Peru. The group’s name is inspired by the famous 17th century atlas created by Dutch cartographer, Joan Blaeu.

As a fan of jazz, Brazilian, and Middle Eastern music, I find this band’s work very compelling. Joshua Thomson’s sax playing evokes the adventures of the avant-garde greats. “Basalt,” (from the 2023 EP Hadal), is a good example, influenced by Ornette Coleman. Josh Peters handles the stringed instruments (sans bass). The two leads, who are headquartered in Austin, TX, lead an ensemble of musicians who can change from album to album. The band have released several full-length albums and EPs, with the most recent, Hadal, issued last month on vinyl.


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