Innovative composer and saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh has always pushed the idiomatic envelope in his work. His eighth release as a leader, the stimulating Facets is, as hinted on the cover art, a musical kaleidoscope. Consisting of 18 short tracks the album explores various time signatures, modes and tonal colors that fuse many musical traditions.
Three equally idiosyncratic artists take turns for a set of solos and duets with Modirzadeh. "Facet Sorey," for instance, is a crystalline tune with drummer/pianist Tyshawn Sorey coaxing out of the prepared piano hypnotic tolls and resonant clashes. Reminiscent of church bells yet more universally ethereal, the somber and melancholic performance brims with a primal spirituality.
Modirzadeh joins Sorey on "Facet 29 Night." The former's mournful tenor simmers with Middle Eastern lyricism. Sorey's dense chords echo within the silent pauses, shimmering darkly, ushering in the memorable conclusion.
The contemplative "Facet 27 Light" has a pastoral ambiance with pianist Kris Davis laying down an enchanting cadence with a cascade of bittersweet notes. Modirzadeh's tenor sounds like a reed flute as the saxophonist weaves a wistful melody out of lithe and undulating lines.
Davis' unaccompanied "Facet 34 Defracted," on the other hand, is delightfully angular and flirts with dissonance. Davis plays boppish phrases on the prepared piano with eloquence and whimsy as she peppers the tune with indigo hues and endows it with a unique swinging sense.
Meanwhile pianist Craig Taborn's "Facet Taborn" borrows from western classical canon and is somber and introspective. Taborn alternates dulcet key strikes with pauses within which the instrument's strings reverberate to create a haunting sonata.
Immediately following the former track is an intelligent and languid dialogue between Taborn and Modirzadeh. The poetic and mesmerizing "Dawn Facet" is replete with Levantine motifs as the two musicians exchange meandering and pensive refrains. Their individual performances are contrasting and simultaneously complementary, a common thread running through the entire recording.
Facets is yet another singular addition to Modirzadeh's oeuvre. The saxophonist continues his experimentations, and in the process he creates sublime, genre-defying music that is simultaneously personal and universal.