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Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation

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Hafez Modirzadeh offers an extensive explanation of “liberation convergence” in the liner notes to his latest album. To paraphrase, he calls this principle “consciousness gravitating toward a point of supreme balance, where all fear of extinction is removed.” The saxophonist-composer goes on to explain the various source materials he used to create these suites, including poems from 13th-century Persia and 14th-century Spain, Mexican literature and motifs from Beethoven. Modirzadeh, who retuned a piano to play Persian temperaments on his last album, is clearly someone who commits to a concept, and if his description sounds academic, this music is quite the opposite.

The saxophonist’s longtime collaborator Amir ElSaffar appears on several tracks, singing and playing the Iraqi santur (hammered dulcimer) in addition to trumpet. His lines on the latter instrument bring the music full circle to jazz after touching down in a Spanish mood (“La Angustia de los Amantes”). When he bends long tones into passionate cries, Modirzadeh evokes Ornette Coleman on “Number That Moves.” The string quartet ETHEL, a fixture throughout the album, plays a crucial part on this track (which is based on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26), wherein Modirzadeh liberates the quartet by removing the piece’s bar lines.

The six-part Sor Juana suite moves the music closest to the album’s theme. Based on a poem by Mexican proto-feminist Juana Inés de la Cruz, it features Mili Bermejo singing Spanish words in Persian and Andalucian modes, switching to English in the final section. The composer’s descriptions add to the music’s depth, but even without them at hand it’s easy to get caught up in the cross-pollinations. MIKE

Originally Published