SEPARATE WORLDS—Music Unifier Records. Web: mergemusic.com. Fire Eyes; Road to Hana; Moon Struck; Driven; Once Loved; Never More; Kurdish Dance; Masaek; Reng; Ittf; To Be Free.
PERSONNEL: Nima Rezai, stick, stick synths, ashbury bass; Dan Heflin, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Brad Ranola, drums, percussion; Randy Graves, didjeridu, guitar, clapsticks; Masaru Koga, flute, alto flute; Ali Shayestah, saz, bouzouki; Jesus Florido, 7-string violin; Alex Postelnek, tabla. By Jim Santella
Merge is a fusion of jazz, world music and progressive rock. Nima Rezai leads the quartet in a program of original compositions that drive with a fiery presence, both exotic and mellifluous. The leader’s Chapman stick ensures a contemporary texture, while the band’s saxophone, drums and guitar form a musical collage that comes from various geographical and cultural directions. The Separate Worlds referred to in the album’s title come from the Middle East, the Far East and the West. The stick, an amplified 12-stringed instrument that allows Rezai to provide melody, rhythm and a bass line simultaneously, affords the band an exotic foundation. This is the third recording for Nima & Merge, a San Francisco-based ensemble whose improvised music casts a broad shadow as it travels through exotic musical scenes from afar. Rezai’s “Separate Worlds Suite,��? in four movements, begins with “Driven��? and ends with “Kurdish Dance��? in a fiery celebration of folk music that features tenor saxophone, guitar and didjeridu. Their interpretation belongs to Baghdad, Tehran and Tabriz as much as it reflects the ambience of traditional music from Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro. “Reng��? floats with a gentle, smooth jazz texture that features soprano sax and flute in a mesmerizing affair. The final suite on the program, “To Be Free,��? comes in four movements that emphasize the eclectic nature of Merge. Saz and bouzouki lend a folklorist inspiration, while thundering drums provide the kind of rhythmic pride that we find all over the world. Rezai’s synthesized melodies tie it all together, and the band finishes with a lively dance step. Representing the universal pull that music has on us, Nima & Merge fold cultural elements from distant lands into one contemporary package that satisfies our need for unity in modern jazz.