In his mid 40s, Tehran-born Kayhan Kalhor is a master of the kamancheh, a Persian upright bowed fiddle with an exquisitely mournful sound. Having worked with sitar player Shujaat Husain Khan in the Persian-Indian hybrid ensemble Ghazal (documented by ECM on 2001’s The Rain), Kalhor has now begun an exploration of Turkish musical traditions. The Wind places Kalhor in a mesmerizing dialogue with a new associate, Erdal Erzincan, master of the bağlama or saz, a plucked instrument akin to a lute. Together they evoke an ancient cry spanning a large part of Western and Central Asia, from Turkey to Iran. The music is sparse, texturally rich, modal or even drone-based. It flows without interruption, with tracks numbered simply from “Part I” through “Part XII.”
Kalhor favors long legato melodies and subtle ornamentation in the middle register, occasionally jumping an octave for added poignancy. There are moments when he abandons his bow and plucks the strings instead, using the kamancheh almost like a drum. Erzincan gets a resonant, mildly metallic tone from his instrument, moving between nebulous rubato passages and tempo-based strumming patterns. Ula Özdemir, a musicologist and also a translator for the two partners, plays the divan ba lama (or bass saz) at different points, but his contributions aren’t clearly delineated.
A mood of meditative stasis prevails, even as Kalhor and Erzincan achieve a deep, intimate communication. The music is largely improvised, though they’re able to land together on unison themes with a mysterious precision.