Lucid Culture


Ensemble Fanaa Play a Mesmerizing Debut at Barbes

“Is this your debut as a trio?” Balkan multi-reedman Matt Darriau wanted to know. “Yeah,” his multi-reed colleague Daro Behroozi admitted. The two had just duetted on a hard-hitting, insistently hypnotic take of Mal Waldron’s Fire Waltz, their rare two-bass clarinet frontline backed by a robustly perambulating rhythm section. The packed house at Barbes roared with appreciation. Think about it: a jazz trio improvising on original themes inspired by Middle Eastern and North African traditions packed a club in New York City this past Tuesday night. No matter what the corporate media would like you to believe, this is how miraculously un-gentrified and multicultural certain pockets of Brooklyn still remain.

Fanaa basically means “lose yourself.” In their debut, Ensemble Fanaa played music to get seriously lost in. They opened with bass player John Murchison on gimbri, a North African ancestor of the funk bass. He switched to upright bass later in the set, concentrating more on holding down the groove rather than squeezing microtonal ghosts out of the western scale as the rest of the band, particularly Behroozi, was doing. The rhythms in general were tight and slinky, although the meters were sophisticated and often very tricky – it was easy to count one of the North African numbers in 7/8 time, harder to figure out where the others were going. Which was just part of the fun.

Drummer Dan Kurfirst eventually took a long solo interspersing rimshots with a relentlessly misterioso, boomy prowl along the toms, worthy of Tain Watts or Rudy Royston. Then later in the set he matched that intensity on daf (frame drum). Behroozi held the crowd rapt with a seemingly effortless command of melismatic microtones on his alto sax. The night’s most rapturous number brought to mind the paradigm-shifting pan-Levantine jazz of Hafez Modirzadeh. Otherwise, the influence of Moroccan gnawa music was front and center, driven by Murchison’s kinetically trancey pulse. The trio closed by bringing up guest Brandon Terzic on ngoni for the night’s bounciest, most upbeat yet similarly mystical number. The trio are at Rye Restaurant, 247 S 1st St in Williamsburg on September 7; it’s a short walk from the Marcy Ave. J/M stop. And Kurfirst is playing a similarly, potentially transcendent duo  set on August 10 at 6 PM with brilliant oudist/composer Mavrothi Kontanis at the Rubin Museum of Art; the show is free with paid admission.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exciting, Kinetic Original Sounds from Diana Wayburn’s Dances of the World Chamber Orchestra

Composer/pianist/flutist Diana Wayburn’s lively, eclectic Dances of the World Chamber Orchestra play indie classical party music. Wayburn’s kinetic compositions draw from a vast array of global traditions. She employs interesting arrangements, unorthodox voicings and an ever-present element of surprise which is a good thing considering the hypnotic groove that anchors most of the intriguing tracks streaming at the ensemble’s Soundcloud page. Alongside Wayburn, the ensemble (whose lineup rotates from concert to concert) includes Domenica Fossati on flute, Hazy Malcolmson on bassoon, Arthur Moeller on violin, Adam Matthes on viola, Hamilton Berry on cello, John Murchison on bass, Ben Holmes on trumpet, Bert Hill on french horn, Spencer Hale on trombone and Yonatan Avi Oleiski on percussion. They’re at the Gershwin Hotel on 12/19 at 8 PM; cover is $10.

Pizzicato cello often provides the bassline or joins it on Wayburn’s looping rhythms, harmonies among the instruments growing more complex as the pieces go on. Check out Forest Conversations, a sort of Carnival of the Animals for the teens. It kicks off with a droll reggae groove anchoring muted pizzicato strings and then evolves to the point where all the happy woodland creatures are swirling, cavorting and marching around each other.

Labonie begins with a rather skeletal trance-dance minor-key groove and fleshes it out, trombone and flute in tandem leading the way to a cinematic sweep. Mendiani works a tricky, Ethiopian-flavored rhythm with airy harmonies overhead…and then the ensemble digs in for a big crescendo. The best number that the group has up now is Tango 2, which is actually closer to flamenco. Trombone solos alternate between mournful and more upbeat, the cello takes a bluesy solo, the horn goes into the baroque and eventually the percussion adds droll reggae flavor. Tbe last of the tracks that’s streaming right now is Tiriba, a dizzying, circularly polyrhythmic African-tinged piece that sets gleaming, resonant brass and wind harmonies over the tricky metrics.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment