Kayhan Kalhor/Erdal Erzincan

The Wind (ECM)

Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish baglama (lute) instrumentalist Erdal Erzincan are arguably their respective country's greatest cultural ambassadors. While infamous President Ahmadinejad continues to flex his nuclear ambitions and the authorities in Turkey dare to prosecute novelist Elif Shafak for insulting "Turkishness," Kalhor and Erzincan encourage contemporary audiences to embrace a peaceful, borderless worldview.

The duo's riveting collaboration, The Wind, is an expansive, 12-part suite of improvisations, partially based on Persian and Turkish classical traditions. "I'm looking for something that departs from nothing," explains Kalhor in the album's accompanying press materials, "and then goes into developing [traditional] material, and then goes into something else really improvised."

This Zenlike approach yields a potent, serene music that builds in waves of sinuous bowed melodies, which often sound like weeping, muscular plucked phrases of great rhythmic oomph, and hypnotic loops of perfect synchronicity. The moods shift naturally from quiet (though not exactly soft) introspection to high-energy (yet unrushed) exuberance. A palpable sense of calm, confident listening drives each player's virtuosic performance, which speaks volumes about the power of connecting at the eye of the storm. Sam Prestianni

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