As Ney (ECM 2084)
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Of the many hypocrisies associated with the record industry, the examples I find most dispiriting come when label execs brag about their devotion to finding talent that is "fresh and different" . . . and then continue to release wannabe CDs that jump on every passing fad. This "sheep pretending to be lions" attitude is almost de rigeur at certain echelons of "the business" these days. Fortunately we still have Manfred Eicher, who really does present music that breaks out of the mold, and has done so with commercial and artistic success for forty years.
Cyminology is a case in point. This band, led by Cymin Samawatie, a German vocalist of Iranian descent, defines its own sound. Benedikt Jahnel may be a jazz pianist, but his conception resists pigeonholing; his keyboard work unfolds like a musical cinema, with narrative force rather than standard jazz phraseology. Bass and drums provide flashes of color, and (unlike so many American jazz bands) don't push and prod the music—these players realize that they are the music. Their sound is constitutive not catalytic. And Cymin Samawatie situates herself so far from what passes as jazz singing that you could waste a month of your life trying to construct a genealogy that gets you from Ella and Sarah to her ritualistic immersion in Persian texts.
If you are looking for music that reinforces your current tastes and fits neatly into the jazz rotation on your iPod, you are advised to pass on this track (and the entire As Ney CD, for that matter). But if you believe that jazz is not a stockpile of phrases or a "historic style," but is a spirit and openness to the possibilities of sound, then this music is required listening.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia