Atlas Maior maps diverse musical traditions, placing Jazz, Middle Eastern, and Latin American musical idioms in dialogue with one another. The group composes music that pays homage to the stewards of these traditions and their cultural and geographic origins. Band members Joshua Thomson (alto saxophone, flutes), Charlie Lockwood (oud), and Ted Camat (percussion) create a unique sound that balances intimate moments of sincerity with powerful melodies and incendiary rhythmic passages. Thomson and Lockwood write original melodies exploring maqamat (the Middle Eastern modal system) and harmonic progressions of American jazz. Percussionist Ted Camat applies a wide variety of rhythms and traditional percussion instruments including the Middle Eastern dumbek, Peruvian cajón, and Brazilian pandero.
The band takes its name from the first world atlas, published by Joan Bleau in Amsterdam in the 17th century. Founded in Austin, TX in 2009, Atlas Maior was inspired by the idea of creating original music encompassing the group’s wide range of musical inspirations, including Egyptian composer Mohammad abdul-Wahhab, Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil, bassist Avishai Cohen, jazz artists Jackie McLean, Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra, and fusion projects such as Amalgama, Ojos de Brujo, Shakti, and local Austin world music pioneers Atash.
Atlas Maior has opened for internationally acclaimed artists Vieux Farka Touré and Tal National, and has performed at music festivals including Wobeonfest, Art Outside, SXSW, and the City of Austin’s F1 Fan Fest. Atlas Maior is joined on double bass periodically by Gary Calhoun James and Tarik Hassan, while former band members include Owen Towles and co-founding member Ethan Vlah. The group has collaborated with a host of talented musicians in Austin and from around the world, including Atash, Layalina, The University of Texas at Austin Middle East Ensemble Bereket, WD-41, Sangeet Millennium, Fared Shafinury, Loulou Ghelichkhani, The Austin Global Orchestra, Roberto Riggio, Indrajit Banerjee, Julie Slim-Nassif, Sari Andoni, Bia Ali, Bob Hoffnar, Charles Prewitt, Donald W. Mohr, Sonia Seeman, Lauren Checchio, and many more.
Nessa performing with Atlas Maior in 2017