Ravish Mominís Trio Tarana - Miren (A Longing)

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Charting the progress of an improvising artist is always a pleasure, particularly when the strides made span significant distance. Iíve been following percussionist Ravish Mominís work since his tenure in saxophonist Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyreís comeback trio, The Light. Mominís merger of Indian and jazz rhythms in that context was an occasional wobbly fit, particularly in tandem with Jesse Dulmanís well-meaning but often lugubrious tuba. McIntyreís sometimes mealy-mouthed reed work didnít help in this regard either Soon after that associationís dissolution, Momin changed gears with Trio Tarana, an ensemble combining his ethnically informed percussion with two sets of strings. A pair of personnel changes underscores this second studio outing with violinist Sam Bardfield replacing the departed Jason Hwang and oudist Brandon Terzic occupying Shanir Ezra Blumenkranzís stead.

The three players work from a resilient foundation of rhythm and melody that manages to sound at once Bedouin antique and dance boutique new. Bardfield bows his strings sans amplification sounding at times like a more measured cousin to Billy Bang and digging deep into Mominís Middle Eastern influenced tune structures. Terzic combines the poise and dexterity of Hamza Al Din with a Western-inclusive attitude akin to Anouar Brahem, threading slivers of blues and funk into his more fevered string bending and sounding remarkably self-assured. Momin also upholds a strong affinity for hard grooves that breathe and undulate through a multiplicity of meters.

The opening piece pivots on backbeat-anchored rhythm over which Terzic and Bardfield grapple atop. Several pieces follow a pattern of somber preamble followed by spirited collective leap into undulating beats and Arabic scales. Terzic also draws on Asian influences, his oud adopting a brittle koto facsimile on the title piece. Violist Tanya Kalmanovitch bolsters the string section on a second version of ďFizaĒ another Arabic dirge peppered with resonating suspensions and rosin-igniting interludes. Places still arise where Mominís ideations seem to eclipse his technique, particularly in the balancing acts that arise out of juxtaposing ďin the pocketĒ playing with the complex meters drawn from African and Indian sources. The brave brinksmanship evident even when he falters suggests a creative artist fully intent on pushing himself inexorably forward.

~ Derek Taylor

Posted by derek on August 26, 2007 7:58 AM
Comments

I think this is the best Momin disc I've heard so far. I think his reach extends beyond the intersection of "Middle Eastern" textures and jazz improvisation, however. It's kind of like how Don Cherry had his obvious influences, but at the end of the day, it's clearly his own musical wellspring. Nevertheless, it'll be interesting to see how Momin's music progresses in the coming years.

Posted by: clifford at August 26, 2007 4:26 PM

I'm with you, Cliff. I hear funk, blues & other forms in there also. With The Light, those elements sometimes collided in problematic ways, but there's a more sophisticated fit here, IMO. My point is that Momin's really come into his own since leaving that band. I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes too.

Nice liners by the way! :)

Posted by: derek at August 26, 2007 7:11 PM

I would be surprised listening to this. Is anyone listening to oud players like the late Munir Bashir or Cinucen Tanrikorur ? Tanrikorur is one of the great master of classical turkish music. His solo album on Ocora is a fantastic travel inside modes, tones, scales. He has a huge string sound. This music , along with the one persian greats (Hasan Kasa'Ô, Ahmad Ebadi, Mustapha Musavi, J Shehnazi, Majid Kiani etc...) is hundred more inspired that all the stuff put out by all these US based middle eastern flavoured jazz branchť. It is nicely made but lacks generally of purposeness, even if it open the door of unaware listeners and newcomers. I hope this Ravish Momin stands out. This thing is like ignoring who is John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy and drinking the words of Branford Marsalis'interviews in 1986 when Cinucen's Ocora solo album was issued.

Posted by: jean michel vs at August 27, 2007 2:30 AM

But, Jean Michel, jazz isn't about trying to sound like authentic folk/ethnic/classical music. I also don't get your point about this is "like ignoring who is John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy." Musicians can ignore and include whomever they like. That is how they make the music their own and find their own voice. Playing 'turkish classical' is a bit limited as it needs to adhere to a more specific tradition and it sure isn't jazz music. I happen to also like more traditional musics over these jazz fusions but it bothers me when people want to speak of it as if it is 'better' music. That is just personal taste.

Posted by: Ted at August 27, 2007 6:01 AM

Momin is not playing Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Sudanese or any music other than his. Despite the instrumentation and their attachments, it goes beyond traditional/classical music of Arabic and Asian realms.

Posted by: clifford at August 27, 2007 11:23 AM

I've never gotten involved before in commenting on my own reviews, so this is an absolute first for me. First off, I think Derek is a good writer, who's done his homework and actually tried to distill the essence, instead of 'exoticizing' the record.

However, I have to say that I've never claimed to be authentic to any particular tradition, and even amateurs at Middle-Eastern or Indian music would laugh away my record, if I attempted to couch it in terms of those traditions. I'm really going after an imagined folk music of the mind, so to speak. Terms like "Ethnically informed" are just as vague as desriptors as the so-called category of 'world music.'

Again, while I'm grateful to be even reviewed, amidst the glut of new records, so far very few folks have actually pinned it down, which I find incredibly frustrating.

Posted by: Ravish Momin at August 27, 2007 12:22 PM

Sacre' bleu! A misunderstood artist!

D, I find it funny that you compare Bardfield to Bang on here. I thought Hwang sounded a lot like him on another Tarana disc but I haven't heard this album. Think it's influence or just the violin. Because to me, I hear plenty of violin that doesn't sound like Bang. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Posted by: Ted at August 28, 2007 12:37 AM

In light of recent comments it's looking like I should retire to the bullpen for awhile and work on my swing. :)

Thank you for the feedback, Ravish. I'll readily cop to the lameness of "ethnically informed"; I intended it as a catchphrase for all of the non-Western (how's that for an exemplar of vagueness?) elements I hearin your music, but should've left it off the page. I like your phrase "imagined music of the mind" much better. It leaves things open in a most pleasing way.

"Authentic" is another adjective best left alone, IMO. To borrow a page from William Parker, I think music is most "authentic" when it accurately expresses the thoughts, intentions & emotions of those creating it. Of secondary importance is whether it adheres to a strict set of time honored traditions & structures.

Cliff states that Ravish isn't playing any music other than his own, but isn't this true of any creative musician worth his or her salt? It doesn't preclude the presence of points of reference. I mean, Coltrane played Coltrane music, but it was still music informed by jazz, blues, gospel, Indian, etc.

Posted by: derek at August 28, 2007 4:35 AM

T, Bardfield gets into some similar rhythmic/repetitive motifs here (Eastern and Middle-Eastern, again signifiers that are problematic), but with greater restraint than Billy sometimes opts for. Theyíre contemporaries, so Iím not sure itís influence so much as likemindedness. I think it has a lot to do with the context too, Ravishís music in Tarana is really rich in rhythm.

Posted by: derek at August 28, 2007 5:53 AM

I don't even know what I'm doing in the bullpen myself...

Posted by: clifford at August 28, 2007 10:24 AM

You're out at the plate consistently hitting homers for the team.

Posted by: derek at August 28, 2007 11:31 AM

Hm, I think I'll sidestep questions of cultural borrowings & authenticity here just to say that yes, this is a very enjoyable disc. The drumming is sometimes a bit rough (sorry Ravish) but it doesn't irk me too much. & I've always liked Bardfeld (no "i", Derek!) from his work in the Jazz Passengers ambience.

Glad to like this one as I found the Kalaparush & the Light stuff really awkward.

Posted by: nd at August 28, 2007 4:02 PM

Normally, I'd defer to your superior editorial eye, Nate, but not in this case. I've seen Sam's surname spelled both ways.

As noted above, I have some difficulties w/ The Light too, but still hear lots of merit in their string of albums.

Posted by: derek at August 28, 2007 5:25 PM

I think I'm still playing tee-ball...

FWIW, the Kalaparush discs didn't do anything for me at all. Which is too bad.

Posted by: clifford at August 28, 2007 6:07 PM

Well, I'm holding his disc Periodic Trespasses here & it's "Bardfeld" (except on the spine where it's "Barfeld"!! I swear half the CDs in my collection have misspelled spines--I have discs by Tristan Murial, Anthony Brqaxton....).

Posted by: nd at August 28, 2007 6:10 PM

Sorry Folks
What I meant is that after the fact that I am completely convinced that such trio music of Tarana has the power to give a rewarding listening to many music lovers, what you call "ethnic music" must be considered as seriously and as contemporaneous as the writers in here are considering Coltrane, Dolphy and Ravish Momin.
When one uses a oriental lute, certain scales and rythms etc... that makes inevitably think about something else. And what I have to say that very few jazz artists have the depth and the ethic of such players of the so called "traditionnal music".
Some great players in very conscious tradition do not perform for money and doing so they put some conditions to their performance. They are very uncompromising artists. Many jazz greats were/ are more mercantile and "compromised" than that. Traditional musics are moving inside their tradition a lot and by example Munir Bashir, one of the greatest oriental artist of the XX century was considered like a revolutionnary in the Arab countries until he was discovered in Europe and went to study contemporary music in Budapest. Believe me Bashir and members of the Dagar Family (depositary of the most ancient & traditional way of performing North Indian Raga music) were strong supporters of free jazz and contemporary music. Some lute pieces of Munir were not far of Roger Smith and Derek Bailey, I mean for a classical music listener. It should have been as dangerous to anyone performing Dastgah at a certain period of the Islamic Revolution in Iran than to play jazz in Germany during the Nazi period. Even now, I don't think that women are allowed to sing Dastgah music or lighter forms in public concerts in Iran. This bracket closed, I repeat this : most of the stuff recorded in Occident in a sort of Arabesque way , even with the more sincere purpose and faith (and one of my best friends and musical mates did that a lot), do not stand one second in comparison of these players. Steve Lacy explained that he had lessons with one master of shakuhashi. I was told how this old japanese master was an experimental artist on his own and a funny guy. How could you speak about Elvin Jones, if you don't refer to tabla masters like Alla Rakha who lived in the USA in the sixties. Although I am quite involved in contemporary improvisation, I think sincerely that a website like this one should have issued reviews about these musics. That is not exotic at all. That is just playing with sounds and as far as I know , human beings were as intelligent and sensitive when these traditions were born than there are now. In the last instance I don't listen very much differences as far as listening experience is concerned between say Bill Dixon 's sound when soloing and the late Aminuddin Dagar 's alap. All this is about sound. I close it fr the moment , but western people in volved in contemporary music have to consider music another way that for the sake of avant-garde novelty. J-M

Posted by: jean michel vs at August 28, 2007 8:23 PM

Whats up fella's.....
Guess I need to jump into this as well....just for the fun of it....1rst of all I am flattered by being reviewed-----7 years ago I was playing oud on the NYC subway system just to feed myself! and now I am getting these really nice hamza-Anour comparisons and its really outa sight!! I am learning alot actually just by reading these reviews...1rst of all...I think sometimes the critics put more thought into music than the musicians..LOL...for better or for worse....its a paradox really though..... because in one way musicians are the most qualified critics of there own music and at the same time the least qualified...being that ya'll (critics) get to listen to the recordings with totally RAW ears and most of the time don't know the musicians personally which gives you a really objective listen.....but anyways...I guess my main interest is addressing some of the things jean-Michel said........ I aggree with you man in alot of ways...and I know you don't know me so I don't take any of it personally.....and you didn't really attack my playing directly or nothing...but still I felt a bit judged and feel like expressing a few things.....1rst off......I have studied the Arabic tradition on the oud for a good amount of time...and have studied all the masters sometimes note for note including Bushir, Al Sambati, Qasabji, Shamma etc etc.......and I can play some of the repertoire and Taxsim in the traditional Style.....in fact I respect the tradition so much that I have actually held back on releasing an album of traditional playing that I recorded because I felt that it is not at the level that I want it to be as far as making a statement in that "Style".... The cool thing about trio tarana is that I can take who I am, and all the the things that inform me...and I have the freedom to play anything I want.....its funny you know cause I just saw this really rare Jimi Hendrix interview where some one asked him how he learned to play the guitar, and he told them that people taught him how to play, the way they move and interact with each other...which I think is about the most truthful answer to that question.........So I guess my point is that my playing on this album though informed by the tradition, is not really a statment in that Tradition, so I don't think it should be compared to the traditon......as a matter a fact nothing I played on Miren had any particular motive or calculation as far as thinking about what I was trying to adhere to style wise......I am just as inspired by Bruce Lee , nature children and all that as I am musicians or styles....
anyways I hope ya'll catch my drift......

Posted by: brandon Terzic at August 30, 2007 9:28 AM

Thanks for the comments, Brandon. Your point about critics/listeners sometimes putting more thought into music than musicians really resonates with me. Itís easy to analyze and cogitate on something to the point of obfuscation. It opens the door to reading in all sorts of things that maybe arenít even there & itís something I know Iím occasionally guilty of. What you wrote about being informed by the tradition, but not necessarily OF the tradition struck a chord too. Itís what I was trying to get at in the review above and obviously didnít too good job of communicating. So thanks again, both for the music and the perspective.

Posted by: derek at August 30, 2007 10:41 AM


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