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Jon Hemmersam and Asal Malekzadeh: In the Moment – Improvisations, Compositions

review hemmersam malekzadeh x1 cong

Jam bands in other genres of music are quite common (Grateful Dead, Phish, lots of jazz) but these are based around some kind of pre-agreed structure or extension to a song, or are improvised around the same tune every gig.

Hemmersam and Malekzadeh had never met prior to the recording of this album, and the music is entirely improvised, combining the acoustic guitar and the daf, a Kurdish frame drum. You can get solo guitar albums, though we never want to listen to them – and we suspect Kurdish drum solos are as unwanted as any other drum solo, anywhere – but the two together add up to something worth listening to.

The album works pretty well. Hemmersam’s guitar work is world class but it’s the kind of music we’d struggle to listen to over an album. It’s lots of intense noodling and strumming, the kind of playing you might get in flamenco; the Spanish have to throw in castanets and dancing girls to make that more interesting.

In this case, Malekzadeh’s drum adds an extra dimension, making it more than the sum of its parts, the daf played as percussive accompaniment rather than keeping a beat. The guitar is fairly constant but Malekzadeh weaves in out, sometimes less obtrusive, other times at the forefront, with several flurries sounding like a snare roll.

This is out on Naxos’s new world label but you’d be hard pushed to call it world; it’s somewhere between jazz and classical guitar, with leanings towards early music.

A little insubstantial maybe but enjoyable; fans of classical acoustic solo guitar should certainly give it a listen.

Out now on Naxos, NXW76147-2.


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