Wednesday, October 9
Vancouver East Cultural Center
In the two long sets of their CD-release concert, Safa only played a few numbers of their beautiful Persian-inspired ethno-fusion jazz, but all were extended improvisational versions of songs from their new debut CD Alight. But this was expected since Safa’s whole concept is essentially coming up with a sketch of the piece and then getting into the proper headspace to figure out to how to play it that time around. The members of the group all seem to function as three parts of the same mind when playing, and they have all talked about feeling a deep instant kinship with one another that allows them to be of a single spirit when playing. This incredible unity is something that is all too rare in music nowadays and the effect was mesmerizing, holding the near-capacity audience at rapt attention despite the extra-long length of some of the pieces, which lasted up to 20 minutes.
The group played wonderfully well together as a result of this unity of mind and spirit; seamlessly flowing from one piece to another and from one solo to another as the players traded solos in the traditional Persian call and response style.
Amir Koushkani sung beautiful songs in Farsi while accompanying himself on the tar, an exotic and delicate sounding instrument related to the guitar and lute. Francois Houle played some incredible solos on his clarinets, exploring different effects and sounds to add to the moods of the music. Being a percussion freak, I of course took note of Sal Ferreras’ great metronomic timekeeping on various drums when he wasn’t doing amazing intricately-rhythmed solos in complex irregular meters. Special guest Celso Machado sang, played additional percussion, guitar, and a great solo on the kora, a kind of West African harp with 21 strings.
It’s somewhat difficult to adequately describe the experience of hearing Safa play. Time seems to stop and you get caught up in the moment of just being absorbed in the wash of sound.