Trio Chemirani - Invite

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Trio Chemirani
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Perhaps one of problems with mixing jazzers and folk musicians is that, though they may borrow some ideas across the musical borders, they don't seem to fully embody the element of the other. In some cases, the mix creates a tendency to negate each other's best attributes. The resultant feeling is that, rather than truly integrating on all levels, the musicians are actually on separate sides of a fence playing roughly the same kind of tune. Jazzers can have a (sometimes inappropriate) tendency to turn folk music into a "jam track," and some folk musicians seem to play limitedly: tonally locked into a jazz arrangement's tetrachords or other western sensibilities about music.

Invite is a rare gem of an album, especially because it is not that type of album. Maybe it's the way Ballaké Sissoko's kora attempts at playing dense harmonies in arpeggio, which are more common on a piano ("Azadeh,"), or Renaud Garcia-Fons's impassioned attack and blazing runs on the upright bass ("Oryssa") that matches a level of excitation usually only capable or attempted on smaller stringed instruments. Either way, the essence throughout the album is one where they are truly integrating themselves, and working with energies their instruments aren't inclined to attempt.

Being a Trio Chemirani album, it does have four drum-based or drum-only tracks, which is truly warranted for them, as their compositions can be so tightly-woven and variegated as to render other accompaniment a distraction. A welcome rhythmic addition to the sonic palette is the not-so-commonplace use of metal - in particular crash, ride and high-hat cymbals. Their glassy texture is a warm jazz-like addition to the presence of wood, clay, and skin drums that is useful without bringing the redundancy of a full drum kit. Additionally, the trio knows when to take a step back, as illustrated in their playing on “Azadeh”: they go through phases of relaxed sustainment of the underlying base rhythm, letting the tune breathe, which could also be considered characteristic of a jazz drummer's accompanying of a softer, slower tune.

Chemirani's drum prowess is front-and-center on "Bâd-é-Saba”" and “Âtash.” The former is a composition with a tanpura drone that shifts meters in blocks of 4 bars - initially starting in 9/8, then reducing to 7/8 for four bars, then 5/8 for four bars, and finally 3/8 for 4 bars. This basis of 16 bars remains the constant and the zarb is played rather straightforward on the first pass. Each successive run of 16 bars shows increasing intensity, rhythmic variation, and interplay. This is a very interesting structural approach given that it seem as though western musicians too often think of a time signature as the stabilizer, and all that is done musically to be put on top of that constant. The latter, “Âtash,” is a piece in 9/8 that demonstrates the drummers' ability when the time is static.

Ross Daly's work on this album is exceptional. “Synkathistos” is a restless flame of a tune, the first part of which encompasses a timing of no less than 36 beats (divided 9+7+6+7+7), and features a taksim/solo in 9/8 time that is more emotionally palpable and vivid than much of his playing on other recordings. “Nokay” is another wonderful tune, which Ross plays on the Afghan rebab, and illustrates a whole different energy: bouncing and joyous. Given that much rebab music seems to have a tonal center that alludes to sorrow or mystery (and is perhaps reflective of the socio/political issues in the last few decades), it is wonderful to hear the sound of the instrument in a state of splendor.

Sylvain Luc gives sweetness to the album through “Dordaneh”, a beautiful tune that colors the album and the track's percussion work with both melodic and harmonic complexity. “Saadi” features Luc too, wherein he marvelously details his playing with bends, arpeggios, and slurs that are not common characteristics of western guitar-playing. “La Marelle,” with Omar Sosa illustrates Sosa's ability to accommodate the playful rhythm and springing energy of the udu, but also use harmony and sustain to draw the tune's nature into something a little more contemplative, but contented.

Invite is an album that should appeal to folk music lovers as well as jazzers that are looking for examples of thinking outside the box, but also in a way that does justice to all of its elements, and where true integration is easily audible. -Seth Premo

Further reading:
Stelios Petrakis, Efren Lopez, Bijan Chemirani: Mavra Froudia
Kevin Seddiki & Bijan Chemirani: Imaginarium
Henri Agnel, et al - Istanpitta: Danses Florentines du Trecento
Urna: Amilal with Djamchid Chemirani and Keyvan Chemirani
Bijan Chemirani with Ross Daly - Gulistan

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