466

Cyminology: As Ney

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
More than many others, ECM has pursued the kind of stylistic and, in particular, cross-cultural pollination alluded to in the recent documentary series, Icons Among Us. But as much as albums like Savina Yannatou's Songs of Another (ECM, 2008) and Dino Saluzzi/Anja Lechner's Ojos Negros (ECM, 2007) looked to dissolve the boundaries between geographic and disciplinary concerns, they still tended to lean more strongly in one direction or another. As Ney, the ECM debut of the Cyminology (their third release overall), posits a new kind of chamber jazz, one that reaches deep into the cultural traditions of its members as much as it does ECM's own musical aesthetic and rich discography—with even a hint of the American jazz tradition.



Fronted by German/Iranian singer Cymin Samawatie, who explores her heritage by interspersing her own lyrics with those of Persian masters Rumi and Hafez, it's the most seamless blend of multiple contexts to be heard from the label in recent years. With music written by Samawatie and her band mates—pianist Benedkit Jahnel, bassist Ralf Schwartz and percussionist Ketan Bhatti—there are traces of past ECM groups like Azimuth, especially on "Naagofte," where Jahnel's repetitive, near-minimalist patterns and Samawatie's wordless vocals recall pianist John Taylor and singer Norma Winstone. Still, Azimuth never had this strong a pulse, albeit a subtle one, delivered through Schwartz and Bhattis's textured playing, and when Samawatie reverts to poet Forough Farrokhzad's hauntingly direct lyrics, sung with a distinctly Middle Eastern melody over the group's fervent pedal tone, the group's intercultural personality becomes more discretely visible.



A certain classicism imbues the group's softly nuanced approach to painting a spare landscape, with Samawatie's dark-hued "As Ssafar" a miniature of haunting beauty, while the plaintive "Ashkhaa" closes the album on a more melancholic note. Much like label-mate Susanne Abbuehl's Compass (ECM, 2006), the group's approach eschews open virtuosity, yet its undeniable skill is made clear with every subtlety, every delicate subdivision of harmony and rhythm into rarified layers that come together with the kind of distinct clarity and transparency innovated by ECM. As gentle as Cyminology is, it's a group that, in the gentlest way possible, demands attention.



The quiet majesty of the title track unfolds gradually, gaining strength as Schwartz and Bhatti augment Samawatie and Jahnel; but the controlled emotive power of Samawatie's voice is delivered early on as, half-way through, the band drops out to leave the singer on her own, in a remarkable display of subtile expression.



Though not a large part of its repertoire, Cyminology knows how to groove, too. The irregularly metered "Sendegi," driven by Bhatti's hand percussion, demonstrates the group's more visceral side, a decidedly rhythmic track that also demonstrates Jahnel's ability to construct narrative-based solos.



As ECM continues to push the envelope of modern jazz, Cyminology is one of its best finds in recent years. As Ney is an album that speaks across borders with quiet but nevertheless passionate beauty.


Track Listing: As Ney; Niyaayesh; Kalaam/Dassthaa/Delbasstegi; Sendegi; Por Se Ssedaa; Naagofte; As Ssafar; Ashkhaa.

Personnel: Cymin Samawatie: vocals; Benedikt Jahnel: piano; Ralf Schwartz: double-bass; Ketan Bhatti: drums, percussion.

Title: As Ney | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Zentuary" CD/LP/Track Review Zentuary
by John Kelman
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Jerry D'Souza
Published: October 2, 2017
Read "Argonautica" CD/LP/Track Review Argonautica
by Troy Collins
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "The Company I Keep" CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "East West Daydreams" CD/LP/Track Review East West Daydreams
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Float The Edge" CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 25, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.