Contemporary Classical Persian
santur player and composer
Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (2014)
“The six-movement "Sor Juana" is dedicated to the Mexican nun, author and scholar Juana Inez de la Cruz, who passed away in 1695. An early feminist icon she criticized the male dominance of academia. The multi-textured, absorbing piece opens with Bermejo's ethereal chanting surges over santurist Faraz Minooei's shimmering mallet strikes. Modirzadeh's resonant, alto clarinet echoes with dramatic flair and adds a contemplative edge. Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar's poignant, brief spontaneous lines contribute a subtle angularity and usher in Minooei's mesmerizing, acerbic solo.” – All.About.Jazz.COM (Pi Recordins)
*** Album - Black Snow
"Faraz Minooei is a young upcoming talent that we will hear more from in coming years in the world of Persian music". - Kayhan Kalhor
“True to its name, Barf-e Siah, literally translated, Black Snow, evokes the image of something that can't be but inevitably leaves you wondering: "what if it were...". In this piece the composer Faraz Minooei, at once pays homage to the rich tradition of Iranian classical and folk music while recognizing the modern man and, in an autobiographical sense, the complex life experiences of an immigrant life himself. Barf-e Siah, in a collage of Iranian classical music mixed with merz-like scraps of vaguely recognizable melodies all meandering through at times unconventional modes and harmonies, creates an abstract experience that when coupled with the relentless pouring hammer of santur, takes the listener through a dream-like walk in the falling black snow...” - Naser Sheikhzadegan
“Faraz Minooei is the living embodiment of the santur, his every thought a string taut across bridges of ever-expanding cultural light, struck by a soul so finely tuned, that our consciousness is left resonating fearlessly across an ancestral terrain encompassing every corner of existence. The joyful precision to fold Monk's "Bemsha Swing" within the "Alegria" of flamenco, within still Iran's "Kereshme" and "Chahargah", marks Faraz as that brilliant source of sound that enables both an abstraction and unification of plural origin itself. In all, the Minooei path illuminates those bits of eternity within each of us called human, for his music overflows with a reflection and compassion that informs an intercultural concept that is deeply personal, truthful, and no less visionary.” - Dr. Hafez Modirzadeh
“Nostalgia or a tribute, the first thought that occurred to me upon hearing an intro, a melody reminiscent of Abol Hasan Saba’s “Zarde Malije” that takes one to a different world of melody and rhythm. The emotional sonority reminds me of Morteza Khan Mahjoobi, and I could “see” Parviz Meshkatian’s influence, while listening to the Chaharmezrab. All of these to me, show a musician at hand that finds his inspiration in his rich tradition while aspiring for the new...exactly what a creative musician should do.” - Kourosh Taghavi
To listen to samples and purchase the album please click the link below.
*** Album Post-Chromodal Out!
A collaboration with Hafez Midorzadeh
Post-Chromodal Out! is an important new release from Pi Recordings that represents the next step in composer/saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh’s 30-year quest to create a seamless exchange of musical structures across all cultures. It is the culmination of a system he calls “chromodality,” which Modirzadeh originally developed to integrate Persian tones with Western equal temperament to further explore harmonic possibilities in jazz. He has since expanded his concept to encompass a “post-chromodal” approach in which all kinds of intervals co-exist; one with meta-cultural potential that allows each musician to use his own distinctive voice to explore music from a full palette of tonal possibilities. The result is not simply some sort of mash-up; it is no less than an effort to altogether transcend cultural differences.
The post-chromodal concepts were first put into practice by Modirzadeh with Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar in their co-led project Radif Suite (Pi 32), which the New York Times called “scintillating… a radical cultural exchange” and “thick with ideas and inspiration” by the Los Angeles Times. Here, as on Radif, Modirzadeh and ElSaffar utilize extended technique to achieve intervals between major and minor. Through the use of alternate fingerings and changes in embouchure, they are able to subtly manipulate pitch, allowing them to break free of the boundaries of equal temperament into new tonal orientation. Post-Chromodal Out!, however, takes the concept one step further through the introduction of a piano re-tuned to variations on Persian temperaments devised by Modirzadeh. Set with three-quarter tones (not quarter tones, but large half-steps, or small whole-steps) integrated with intervals common to equal temperament, the instrument requires the pianist to take a completely new approach. Leaping headlong into this music is pianist Vijay Iyer, who takes on the re-tuned instrument with an improvisatory mastery befitting his own reputation for combining jazz with the music of different cultures. Modirzadeh had this to say about Iyer: “I have approached many pianists over the years, but Vijay was the only one to physically sit down at a beat-up old upright I had retuned, to trust in the possibilities, and make it happen. His confidence to move through vulnerable realms demonstrates great mental endurance, collaborative spirit, patience and love. He applied enormous will and understanding, taking on what is at stake with uncompromising determination.” The band also includes Ken Filiano on bass and royal hartigan on drums, both of whom have worked with Modirzadeh for over 25 years and each a seasoned explorer of cross-cultural musical possibilities in his own right. Also on board are guest artists Danongan Kalanduyan on the Filipino kulintang, Faraz Minooei on santur, and Timothy Volpicella on electric guitar, who help to further establish the meta-cultural nature of this music.
Modirzadeh, who is of Iranian-American descent, grew up mostly in Northern California and started playing saxophone at the age of 12. He spent his teenage years hanging out at clubs like the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, seeking guidance and inspiration from many of the saxophone legends who passed through town like Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, James Moody, Joe Henderson, and Sonny Simmons. After graduating college he studied for a time at New England Conservatory before returning to California to continue studying the Persian dastgah with master musician Mahmoud Zoufonoun. These teachings helped convince Modirzadeh to pursue his own path in jazz, one steeped in the musical traditions of Iran. He received his masters from UCLA before moving to the East Coast in the mid-1980s to try out the New York jazz scene and to pursue a doctorate at Wesleyan University. It was during this time that he developed his original chromodal concept, which was subsequently the subject of his doctoral dissertation. In New York he played with groups such as Charlie Persip’s Superband and Fred Ho’s Afro-Asian Ensemble but overall found that attempts to try out his new concept were mostly met with disdain. He tells of a typical scene: “I went to a popular jam session in lower Manhattan to try this concept in public. Before the end of my first chorus, the leader of the session pulled the horn out of my mouth and dragged me off the stage by my neck strap, yelling ‘You can’t just get up here and play like that!’”
Modirzadeh would eventually move back to California, where he is now a Music Professor of World Cultures at San Francisco State University. As years turned into decades, and although awarded two NEA Fellowships and a Fulbright, still, the feeling never escaped Modirzadeh that his life’s work was slowly dying on the vine. The story might have ended there if not for a serendipitous visit to Ornette Coleman’s home in New York City in 2007. Modirzadeh had been interested in finding out how it was that after years of developing his own musical approach through Persian and various other non-western systems that he would somehow arrive at a tonal language similar to Coleman’s. A single afternoon visit turned into days of discussion and playing, leaving Modirzadeh convinced of the need for a universal “post-chromodal” approach that breaks free of all cultural barriers. Consequently, Coleman invited Modirzadeh to play with him at the 2007 San Francisco and Monterey Jazz Festivals.
A year later, the reinvigorated Modirzadeh met Amir ElSaffar at a recording session in New York. According to ElSaffar their connection was immediate: “Our chemistry was uncanny, unlike any I had experienced with any other musician. Beyond our similar cultural backgrounds, there was a resonance in his sound, and openness and acceptance in his approach that encouraged creativity and spontaneity every time that we played together.” ElSaffar proceeded to study with Modirzadeh, and their partnership results in the release of Radif Suite in 2010.
Vijay Iyer says of Modirzadeh: “The scope of Hafez’s synthesis of concepts across cultures is staggering. There is great detail in his critical engagement with traditional intervallic systems, tuning systems, and modes, and there is also a grand sweep to his vision across disciplines and historical eras. In spite of its technical complications, there is genuine heart to this music and a real spiritual clarity. Modirzadeh is not simply a ‘scholar’ or ‘musicologist,’ but a genuine artist, with a profound, lifelong stake in the unification of research, creative work, and personal inner quest that is expressed in his music.”
Post-Chromodal Out! is comprised of two suites: “Weft Facets” by Modirazdeh and “Wolf and Warp” by James Norton, who was commissioned by Modirzadeh to compose an independent work with the intention of demonstrating the expansiveness of this approach to re-tuning. When asked the reason for his urgent imperative to re-tune the piano, Modirzadeh replied: “The standardized temperament for piano, as beautiful as it is, carries an unbalanced weight of influence over players and listeners, leading many to believe that there is no other resonance to work with but this one. This creates a value system that is unjust and ultimately limits the discovery of other, more personal tuning possibilities. By retuning the piano – the one instrument that imposes a dominant influence on the world’s music – the musician is freed to explore all tonal possibilities.” The result is music that is like nothing that has been attempted before, one that promises to shake the harmonic foundation of Western culture’s tempered system.
*** Album Cycles
A collaboration with Kojiro Umezaki
"[Kojiro Umezaki] is a brilliant artist who improvises, composes and works with electronic media. He's both an unbelievable musician, performer, as well as a presenter, teacher and creator." - Yo-Yo Ma
Composer and shakuhachi virtuoso Kojiro Umezaki's latest release expands his continued exploration of transformative music that seamlessly integrates classical composition, traditional Japanese musical influences, electronics and improvisation. (Cycles) features both original and traditional works that artfully blend shakuhachi (Japanese vertical bamboo flute), percussion, electronics, and other world music instruments in a diverse mix of compositions.
For fans of: Silk Road Ensemble, Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider, world-electronic music.
1. (Cycles) America (3'44")
Joseph Gramley: vibraphone and percussion
Kojiro Umezaki: electronics
2. 108: for shakuhachi, janggo, santur, and manjira (12'09")
Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi and manjira
Dong-Won Kim: janggo
Faraz Minooei: santur
3. Lullaby from Itsuki (五木の子守唄) (3'11")
Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi
4. "…seasons continue, as if none of this ever happened…" (9'36")
Kojiro Umezaki: shakuhachi and electronics
5. For Zero (5'46")
6. (Cycles) what falls must rise (alternate version) (13'24")
All tracks composed by Kojiro Umezaki with the exception of "Lullaby from Itsuki (五木の子守唄)" (Japanese traditional) and "108: for shakuhachi, janggo, santur, and manjira" (Kojiro Umezaki, composer; Dong-Won Kim, Faraz Minooei, and Kojiro Umezaki, co-arrangers).