Hafez Modirzadeh

Facets
Pi Recordings 87

Hafez Modirzadeh, who teaches at San Francisco State University, demonstrates with his 18 (!) compositions here that using saxophone alternate fingering and embouchure adjustments plus tuning a piano with lowered and altered pitches achieve unique intervallic sounds. While individual however, the results are no more difficult than those created by Thelonious Monk or Ornette Coleman. Aiming to approximate the elasticity of Persian poetry, Modirzadeh has really created another texture for exploratory music. Collegial-minded as any professor should be, Modirzadeh doesn’t play on eight tracks, allowing a trio of pianists – Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey or Craig Taborn – liberty to interpret his lines. The other pieces evolve as duets between his tenor saxophone and individual keyboardists.

Instructively, only on the penultimate “Facet 39 Mato Paha” do his reed arabesques and spills approximate breathy ballad work. But even here Sorey’s angled or metronomic variations roll out in standard form. Modirzadeh’s output varies slightly with a compendium of reed strategies in each duo. Davis’ off-kilter key clanking and soundboard echoes on “Facet 27 Light” unfurl reed textures that glide from Paul Desmond-like smoothness to reed sucking. Sorey’s pauses and studied hunts for the perfect note and echoes bring out sliding slurs; while Taborn’s diffident shakes and asides on “Facet 33 Tides” accompany the most non-Western reed work of thin cries and split tones. These slurping trills in the saxophone’s almost uncomfortably high-pitched range also show up on the two Monk compositions with rolling piano textures both complementing and challenging reed variations. Oddly enough Davis’ “Facet 34 Defracted” solo scutters from a prepared piano clinks and plucks and rumbles into a mid-section variant of “Pannonica” which Taborn and Modirzadeh reprise seven tracks later. Unaccompanied, Davis and Sorey provide most notable interpretation of Modirzadeh tunes. She brings a rococo twist to repetitious low-pitched crashes and jittery high pitches on “Facet 31 Woke”, speeding the patterning to allegro as a climax and then downshifting with simple clicks. On “Facet Sorey”, that pianist brings wider expression to the composition adding a waterfall of glissandi at the top and ending with two handed digs into the instruments’ lowest reaches. Choosing the right partners for profound compositions and improvisations, Modirzadeh confirms the originality of his music, while easily sliding it into the ongoing exploratory Jazz tradition.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Facet Taborn+ 2. Dawn Facet^ 3. Facet 27 Light* 4. Facet 28 Nora* 5. Facet 29 Night^ 6. Facet 34 Defracted* 7.Ask Me Now+ 8. Facet Sorey^ 9. Facet 31 Woke* 10. Ebb Facet^ 11. Facet 33 Tides+ 12. Flow Facet* 13. Pannonica+ 14. Facet BB^ 15. Facet 35 Ode B'kongofon+ 16. Facet 32 Black Pearl* 17. Facet 39 Mato Paha^ 18. Ode Reprise+

Personnel: Hafez Modirzadeh (tenor saxophone) and Kris Davis*, Tyshawn Sorey^ or Craig Taborn+ (piano)