John and Reza L.A. Times Review
Posted 13 March 2007 - 07:38 PM
March 12, 2007 E-mail story Print Most E-Mailed
Iran and America meet on stage
The Reza Derakshani-John Densmore Group offers a rhythmic rapprochement.
By Don Heckman, Special to The Times
At a time when the governments of Iran and the United States are having trouble starting a conversation, leave it to the musicians to step in. "Iran and America Make Music" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Saturday night was an amiable musical effort to get the dialogue underway.
The headline ensemble, the Reza Derakshani-John Densmore Group, was led by Iranian singer and multi-instrumentalist Derakshani and Densmore, former drummer and founding member of the rock group the Doors.
That intriguing combination was further enhanced by the presence of Cuban bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, American keyboardist Dennis Hamm and the superb percussionist Cristina Berio (daughter of Italian composer Luciano Berio and singer Cathy Berberian). And the music accurately reflected Densmore's description of the group as a global village.
The center of attention was Derakshani, who sang and played the ney flute, the lute-like tar and setar, and the kamancheh (held like a cello and sometimes described as the spike fiddle). But that was pretty much it insofar as the Iranian portion of the musical conversation was concerned. Although the plangent tones of Derakshani's vocals and instrumentals added a distinctly Middle Eastern quality to the timbres of the music, the combination of Densmore, Del Puerto and Hamm tended to remain within a familiar American jazz-rock groove.
Interestingly, although Berio played the least amplified set of instruments on the stage, it was her fascinating percussion sounds, delivered with crisp, rhythmic drive, that provided a blending point for the genres. This suggested a metaphoric direction for real-world differences, with the Armenian Italian American Berio performing a moderating role between the potentially oppositional musical qualities of America and Iran.
The evening opened with the entertaining folk- and New Age-oriented sounds of another Densmore group, the Reluctant Gurus, with attractive singing by Donna De Lory. The Ney Nava Dance Theatre offered fascinating contemporary variations on traditional Persian dance.
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