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
Reza – Ray of the Wine / 2005 Stonemountain / 8 Tracks / http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/reza / http://www.henhousestudios.com / Reviewed 23 February 2005