Saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh tunes up for duets | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh tunes up for duets

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Saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh has spent the better part of 30 years forging connections among jazz, Persian artistic concepts, and free music. This has resulted in a clutch of albums that ping-pong between gutsy postbop and meditative duets, the latter of which come into focus on his new album, Facets (Pi). Modirzadeh has frequently worked with Chicago-bred trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, and here he taps pianists Kris Davis, Craig Taborn, and Tyshawn Sorey (better known as a drummer) to accompany him on an expertly and alternately tuned piano in his endeavors to deconstruct equal temperament. Only eight notes have been lowered on the keyboard, but here and in live settings with collaborators such as Vijay Iyer, it seems as if the performers have devised an entirely new mode of expression. On “Facet 34 Defracted,” Davis sideswipes the familiar with a playfulness that Modirzadeh’s tuning system not only begs for but requires, using a fractured Thelonius Monk progression that draws from a pair of his pieces, “Pannonica” and “Ask Me Now.” On the Facets version of “Ask Me Now,” Modirzadeh and Taborn pirouette around a tonal center, each player tumbling ahead of the other only to hold back for a moment before coalescing around a single note or punctuation of time. The entire endeavor has a disquieting calm—its slowly paced peacefulness is somehow distressing as well as comforting.   v

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