Kayhan Kahlor and Erdal Erzincan ‘Kullah Kuluk Yakişir Mi’ (ECM) 5/5

Kalyhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan
Precious little Persian classical music is available to roots enthusiasts in the West who are eager to improve their knowledge of Iran’s culture. In typical enterprising fashion, ECM has seen fit to record an intimate concert between two master musicians who, while emanating from two distinct cultures, are nonetheless linked by a shared border and a shared heritage that extends here to a musical métissage. This collaboration is not the first time that Iranian kamancheh player (a spike fiddle that is held like a mini cello with bow) Kayhan Kalhor has recorded in the West. ECM and Harmonia Mundi have both released albums with him, but neither focused attention on the commonality between Iranian and Turkish music. The other part of the equation is Turkish baglama player (a stringed instrument akin to a banjo or mandolin) Erdal Erzincan who has been schooled in the instrument when moving to Istanbul and during his teens adopted an early interest in the regional folk music of his native land. In the case of Iranian Kalyan Kalhor, he is both a seasoned instrumentalist and composer, and in 1991 co-founded Dastan, the Persian classical ensemble that has performed at the London Jazz festival and on Radio 3. From the evocative opening to the title track, the music is like entering the opening to a centuries old ancient building with light seeping in for the first time and from a listening perspective one where time has been suspended. Pieces vary between traditionally-inspired and improvised numbers, but seam effortlessly into a cohesive whole. It is difficult to pinpoint individual compositions that stand out, but if one must then the compelling repetitive riff on ‘Improvisation IV’ and the kamancheh solo on ‘Improvisation V’ are outstanding while on the coupling of ‘Deli Dervis’/’Daldalan Bari’, the instrumental numbers are indistinguishable from one another. For a fitting finale, ‘Intertwining melodies’ are all lyrical traditional pieces that are expertly weaved into one another. The concert features a live February 2011 performance in Bursa, Turkey, that few save the local population would ever have access to. ECM certainly deserve credit for having the courage to put out this ambitious release and it fits comfortably into their continued support for world roots artists who would not otherwise gain a spotlight for themselves.

Tim Stenhouse