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Friday, March 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jazz Etc.

A sampling of world beats

Seattle Times jazz critic

Two top-notch concerts from abroad compete for the attention of astute music-lovers Saturday.

From Holland comes the wacky, wonderful ICP Orchestra and from the Middle East (via New York), comes Palestinian oud (lute) master and violinist Simon Shaheen and his Near Eastern Music Ensemble.

ICP, which stands for Instant Composers Pool, is the premiere ensemble of New Dutch Swing, an avant-garde style with roots in '60s free jazz and the multimedia Fluxus movement. The 10-piece group performs at 8 p.m. at the Seattle Asian Art Museum ($14-$16; 206-547-6763; www.earshot.org).

A group that offers high-concept seriousness as well as hijinks, ICP features some of the most famous names in Dutch jazz: drummer Han Bennink, pianist Misha Mengelberg, cellist Tristan Honsinger, trombonist Wolter Wierbos and reed players Toby Delius, Ab Baars and Michael Moore. Its concerts are always full of whimsical surprises.

Shaheen wowed audiences at the 2001 WOMAD USA Festival with his jazz-tinged contemporary group. This time he appears at 8 p.m. at Town Hall with his traditional band, composed of first-call musicians from throughout the Arab world ($18-$23; 206-652-4255; www.ticketweb.com). The group plays an array of lively dance tunes with odd-metered percussion, as well as transportive classical pieces featuring highly-ornamented vocals and ney (flute).

An added attraction on the show is a montage of songs by such stars as Uum Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez, played as an accompaniment to film clips from Egyptian musicals.

Shaheen and ICP are established international stars. How does one get started on the long road to recognition?

Local Latin-jazz alto saxophonist Layla Angulo is at the start of that journey. Her career is an object lesson in why it always pays to take a second listen.

When her first CD came out a few years ago, I wasn't impressed by this former Cornish student, who seemed to be relying more on chutzpah and sexy promotional photographs than musical accuracy.

Then one night a few weeks ago, I heard a sensational salsa track on Johnny Conga's KBCS show, "Al Lado Latino," and was astonished to hear it was from Angulo's new album, "Live at the Triple Door."

What a change! Angulo's current combination of vivid, jazz-inflected horn writing, energetic salsa rhythms and — her most recent flame — Afro-Peruvian beats is altogether original and captivating. Still no sax virtuoso, Angulo does have a rich, deep sound in the lower register, good control of her instrument and what she plays makes musical sense.

Even more impressive, she's writing first-rate, original tunes in Spanish — not bad, for a woman whose parents were Irish and Greek.

Angulo returns to the Triple Door at 7:30 p.m. Thursday ($15; 206-838-4333; www.thetripledoor.net) for a reprise of the live album, plus more Afro-Peruvian material.

"That first album was really more of a demo," admitted the 30-year-old saxophonist in a phone interview earlier this week. "I've done a lot more learning and experimenting since then."

Though the band's personnel has changed (and shrunken) since the album, the stupendous vocalist Carlos Cascante is still on board, as is conguero Walter A. Torres.

Angulo is determined to take her act on the road and snag a record contract.

With her business savvy, musical curiosity and good looks — "Hey, if you've got it, use it," she says of those promo photos — she just might find her way to the international stage.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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