“Ray of the Wine” is a revolutionary move for both traditional and popular music
Reza’s music is interesting. That’s probably the only thing that came to my mind when I first came to listen to “Ray of the Wine”. The only Persian-American that I’ve ever reviewed, Reza mixes eir two heritages incredibly well, placing in a traditional set of instruments with more American ones (bass, electronic keyboard). What first emanates to listeners’ ears is “Wild Hair”, a foreign-language track that skillfully mixes the ancient and new, the east and the west to create a cross-cultural amalgamation that will play as well in Peoria as it will in Tehran. The title track is much more contemplative, but still uses the extraordinarily complex arrangements by Reza to push forward the track even with the slowish tempo threatening to hold matters back. The infusion of blues lines (on piano) gives the track two distinct histories, that of Reza’s own past and that of the culture in which ey sees eirself. To listen to the complete disc is daunting, as unlike more contemporary American music, Reza places an innumerable amount of layers over one another and also uses eir voice as one of the key instruments on every track of “Ray of the Wine”.
The building action of a track like “I’m Back” shows an individual who has invested all eir can into this disc, and will draw listeners in not just by the music on the disc but on the emotions espoused in every line ey sings and every arranged note. Moving into the epic “Masnavi”, Reza takes a huge risk in creating such a Spartan soundscape for the opening, crucial moments of the track. Of course, the meat of the track is found much later with the interplay of didgeridoo, flue, bass and percussion, but those opening moments are most likely the least instrumented a song can still get and maintain its hold on an audience.
This combination that Reza succeeds with in “Ray of the Wine” is a revolutionary move for both traditional and popular music. The incorporation of so many different styles of music in a snowball effect that creates a brand new style of music happens very rarely on a single disc, much less an entire lifespan of a band. However, Reza is able to create this new Frankenstein’s monster in the space of fifty minutes. Look for this album to be the taste of the town for music fans in the know and NPR, but it will take a loosening of musical xenophobia here in America to allow this album to get the publicity it deserves.
Top Track: Masnavi
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"Peaceful Sounds From 'the Axis Of Evil'": The Middle East Meets West On Ray Of
Not everything is strife and buggery between the Middle East and the United States, and leave it to Doors drummer John Densmore to show us the light - or rather, the Ray. He has produced what Hen House Studios founder and President Harlan Steinberger calls "a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful record."
Not that Steinberger is biased or anything, just because his Venice, Calif., based music recording and film complex is uncorking Ray of the Wine, on ???Feb. 1, the highly anticipated Hen House Studios debut from renowned Persian-American multi-instrumentalist, composer and vocalist Reza.
Reza observes, "The fact that a Persian musician worked with one of The Doors is a big deal."
Think of this historical pairing as the Middle East meets West in the Hen House where the quintessential American rock musician's mandate was to westernize the arrangements of the Persian folk and classical music that Reza, a longtime New Yorker, has been wanting to bring stateside. The emphasis track, "Ray of the Wine," is already making a splash at Triple A radio.
Densmore, who played drums on the album and wrote its vivid liner notes, humorously describes Ray of the Wine as "peaceful sounds from 'The Axis of Evil,'" adding reverently, "Reza plays magic. He has all these instruments that look like they belong in the Smithsonian."
Comparing each song on Ray of the Wine to "a painting, with different colors and feelings," Reza strokes the rhythms and melodies of mysticism, divinity, and human love -- most taken from the lyrical pages of ancient Persian poetry and a few he wrote -- with "brushes" such as the tar, sitar, ney, kamanche, and Farsi incantations.
Ironically, Densmore wasn't familiar with certain instruments to be used on Ray of the Wine when he and Reza began pre-production, but laughs, "I immediately resonated to the music and knew what to do. It sounds a little pompous, but I got it."
An acclaimed painter whose evocative water color imagery ensconces the CD, Reza says, "I want to make the connection, even if the language is different. The music translates to the American audience. There's more recognition of Indian music and the Arab world in the West, but there hasn't been a lot of understanding of Persian music, because it hasn't been introduced the way it should be, in order to make a connection. This music has that quality, the way it's presented, and I hope makes it more listenable. "The music is not totally traditional or from a different world," he assures quietly. "People can relate to it, at least in terms of the color and arrangement."
Densmore adds, "It blows my mind that in the last 10 years, America is accepting music in languages it can't speak. Look at the Buena Vista Social Club; it went through the roof. You get the feeling of the culture, even if you don't literally understand the lyrics. Reza's songs are so beautiful that they transcend the language barrier."
Ray of the Wine was recorded live in three days, and conveys the improvisation of "instruments talking to each other," as Densmore succinctly explains. However, all that spontaneity among crack musicians Osama Afiffi (electric bass), Quinn Johnson (keyboards), Christina Berio (percussion), Stephen Kent (didgeridoo), took a lot of cross-country pre-production between him and Reza.
"It was really fun, like a jazz record," says Densmore, who was also the executive producer along with Steinberger, whose revolutionary Hen House Studios offers free recording time to musicians in exchange for the right to film them during the process.
Reza asserts, "Harlan kept the record alive," referring to the long hibernation of Ray of the Wine after its completion.
Born in Tehran, Reza studied Persian classical and folk music. His recording credits include soundtrack and recording collaborations with renowned artists. Recent Reza performances include the MAXXI Museum in Rome, Lensic Performing Art Center in Santa Fe, and two performances at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. He and Densmore plan to gig in Los Angeles in the spring, with the distinct possibility of touring behind Ray of the Wine.
It's a concept as intoxicating as the album itself. Cheers to that.
Evolution Of Media
Can you imagine a record that combines the trippy-sound of the Doors and the mys
Can you imagine a record that combines the trippy-sound of the Doors and the mystical ambiance of Alice Coltrane? Can you really imagine what that might sound like? Well look no further, the record is called Ray Of The Wine and the genius behind it all is Perian-American, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist called Reza.
One major highlight of Ray Of The Wine is the involvement of John Densmore, the former drummer for the Doors. The two have joined together and released the most innovative and magical record since the recording between Alice Coltrane and Carlos Santana. Ray Of The Wine was recorded live in three days and I will put money down that during those three days there were many magical moments in the studio.
The funk driven "Wild Hair" is a great song to start the record off with, it's a great attention grabber due to the solid and infectious Doors-ish rhythms sprinkled with wild blends of hypnotic Middle Eastern sounds. John quotes "Reza played instruments that I have never really seen before". "Ray Of The Wine the first single, is a hypnotic quest into the unknown. What makes the single so cool is the heavy spiritual and peaceful tones. Remember Alice Coltrane's "Journey In Satchidananda" recorded in 1970, it's that same type of vibe just updated to fit with today. The DJs will have a feel day with the track "Zhaleh", it's totally bass-heavy, triphop-ish but danceable. It's a hip track, I would have definitely released this track first to the public.
A few of the tracks are quite intense, take for instance the eight minute opus "Masnavi" which begins with a wind instrument blowing alone and then all of a sudden the song takes a left turn and develops into a full blown jam session with Middle Eastern chants. It's wild!
I'm going to try not to spoil all the surprises of this record by telling too much because I believe that the music and style of this recording will speak for itself, and should be explored without the ending being told. I will say one thing, I find Ray Of The Wine the perfect driving music especially after a busy workday. It also makes for cool chillout or background music too. Hipsters, I suggest that you run out now and be one of the very first to get your copy of Ray Of The Wine. After listening to Reza you will be proud that you added him to your personal collection.