Words by Simon Broughton
Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish saz player Erdal Erzincan are both fantastic traditional musicians with a taste for innovation – and Kalhor’s name has long been a hallmark of quality. Kalhor and Erzincan first recorded together in 2004 for The Wind (later released by ECM). Their occasional duo performances since then have been sensational events, as they’ve dug deeper into each other’s material, with Iranian Kurdish and Turkish Alevi links. When I saw them at Babel Med in 2012 they played a continuous 50-minute set in which one improvisation blended into another – as they do during this live concert, recorded in the Turkish town of Bursa in 2011.
It’s not just the contrasting textures of bowed kamancheh and plucked baglama that work so well, but the way the two musicians elaborate on the material in such an organic way. There’s a searing intensity in the music, which sustains nearly an hour with well-paced climaxes and relaxations. There are six traditional and composed tracks woven into this recital and five pure improvisations, although unless you’re familiar with the material you probably won’t be able to tell them apart. They include a new and spectacular version of ‘The Wind’ from their previous album and a glorious finale of ‘Intertwining Melodies’ from both Persian and Turkish traditions. This is sublime.
TRACK TO TRY: ‘Intertwining Melodies’