It has been nearly a decade since Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan recorded The Wind for ECM. During that long interval, the pair have played together so often, they appear to have perfected a musical language that walks not only between various musical traditions but through them simultaneously, coming through the other side with something ...
It has been nearly a decade since Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan recorded The Wind for ECM. During that long interval, the pair have played together so often, they appear to have perfected a musical language that walks not only between various musical traditions but through them simultaneously, coming through the other side with something timeless. Kalhor is an Iranian master of the kamancheh (spike fiddle). He has a relentlessly mercurial musical mind. It's been displayed not only in his work as a solo artist, with the duo Ghazal, and the ensemble Dastan, but also in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. Erzincan is regarded as the greatest living practitioner of the Anatolian baglama tradition (it is also called a saz, a long-necked lute type of instrument), and like his partner here, possesses a wildly adventurous spirit, not only in moving from Turkish folk and Western classical traditions with seamless ease, but also as an improviser. Kula Kulluk Yakisir Mi was recorded live in 2011. Its title is taken from the folk song by the late prolific Turkish folk musician Muhlis Akarsu. It translates loosely as "How unseemly it is to follow anyone slavishly." Other than this duo's glorious version of that song and a thematic reprise of "The Wind," everything here is either built upon -- but never stays chained to -- traditional folk songs or consists of outright improvisations that come from nothing, engage both Persian and Turkish folk traditions, and emerge as a deeply emotional music that is unclassifiable. While everything here feels like it is of a piece -- the performance never seems to stop -- it doesn't necessarily sound like it. There are poignant silences within these arrangements, where the individual or paired instruments resonate as if to underscore meaning, either directly intended by a piece or intuited from it -- check the two-minute mark of the traditional "Alli Turnam," where the theme trails off, is followed by a naturally echoing space, and then turns back on itself to speak of the troublesome historical present even as it addresses a more innocent past. None of the five improvisations here reaches four minutes. The degree of intuitive interplay is so high, it is almost impossible not to regard these as formal works. They are informed by the traditional songs that precede them and foreshadow those that follow, as they shift and transform songs into sounds that are both beguilingly strange and ancient -- familiar in the body's cellular memory and in the heart's present moment. The final nine minutes, entitled "Intertwining Melodies," weave four traditional songs and become an extended improvisation upon them all, even as they are united in one flowing river of sound, history, and mystery. Kula Kulluk Yakisir Mi is outstanding for its depth and truly masterful execution, but more than this, it is revelatory in the way it connects players to one another inside the music, and listeners to both musicians and sound, as it evokes emotions that are far beyond the reach of words. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi