Farzad, violin; Tommy Wells, drums; Craig Nelson, bass; Louie Shelton, acoustic and electric guitar
The violin has all sorts of connotations in Jazz: one of my faves of all time is, for example, Ray Nance, who had no trouble making his instrument's dulcet tones felt while navigating the brass-heavy jungle stylings of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in its 1950s heyday. Farzad has a similar tone on the violin to Nance: he's not afraid to bow hard, to wring out a depth of feeling we seldom witness. And on the lengthy suite "Why?" here, reminiscent in spots to Dvorak, one could be reduced to tears easily. It's elsewhere, when Farzad essays Latin forms and slips into more conventional Jean-Luc Ponty-esque instrumental motifs (cf. Ponty's Atlantic Records releases of the 1970s and 1980s) that the "oomph" just isn't as strong. There is a pronounced Middle Eastern/Persian folk flavor on board as well ("Conversation," which has some fine electric bass underpinning by Craig Nelson), much as in "From My Heart," a previous Farzad recording, but I'd prefer the mix to be more strongly biased towards the foreign because, as we all know, the influence of American cultural imperatives often direct one to chop the foreign elements too finely. For fairness' sake, Farzad in his liner notes does mention a wish to expand his palette of influences; I just wonder if the ones he has chosen do his music more favors or less. "Santa Fe Nights" is one such example: with metronome-perfect snare taps from Tom Wells and given producer Louie Shelton's Hispanic acoustic guitar flurries you could expect to hear it on one of those Smooth Jazz stations. But Farzad's tone saves this CD just about every time (see "Thinking of You, "Flight of the Lovers", "La Dadiva"). It's a bit like, if I may, watching Ravi Shankar perform one of those 25-minute dhuns: one sees the palpable belief on his face and hears it in his playing and one is carried along forcibly. So will you, by this.
by Ken Egbert
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, November 2002 issue, all rights reserved