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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HAFEZ NAZERI "Rumi Symphony Project: Untold" (Sony Masterworks)

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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014 5:00 am

Be suspicious of recorded music packaged with suggestions of what you should think while listening to it. “Imagine yourself traveling back in time inside a small spacecraft, watching the dawning of time” might sound like something from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos narration, but in fact it’s from Iranian composer-vocalist-instrumentalist Hafez Nazeri’s liner notes for his cross-cultural music inspired by the Sufi poet Rumi. We’ll let Rumi devotees decide if Nazeri’s compositions — scintillating combinations of viola and cello, Middle Eastern percussion, voice, chorus, and the lutelike Persian setar (a new version of which, according to the liner notes, has been christened the “hafez”) — reach the transcendent levels for which the 13th-century poet is still revered. Nazeri’s claim that he has created a “threefold innovation in one recording” seems a leap. Despite the braggadocio, there is some fine music here — even if the declared innovation sounds like something previously done, in smaller settings, by Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Nazeri’s setar, especially when backed by strings, is vigorous and meaningful. His father, Shahram Nazeri, sings with warmth and clarity, which make his son’s vocals seem pale in comparison. On “Dance of the Galaxies,” Glen Velez’s hand-drum play is a rippling view to a cosmic landscape. This music is meditative, yes, and beautifully weaves together Eastern and Western traditions. Nazeri should let it speak for itself.

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