13a Grdina MarrowGordon Grdina’s The Marrow with Fathieh Honari
Gordon Grdina; Hank Roberts; Mark Helias; Hamin & Fathieh Honari
AttaboyGirl Records ABG-8 (gordongrdinamusic.com)

Duo Work
Gordon Grdina; Christian Lillinger
AttaboyGirl Records ABG-7 (gordongrdinamusic.com)

The music of the inimitable Gordon Grdina – prodigious oudist and guitarist – is nothing if not full of glorious drama and surprise. As a musician, Grdina’s love of delightful whimsy, caprice and of music’s volatile ever-changing nature may be the reason that no two recordings of his – indeed, often no two songs he composes – come from the same place in his mind’s eye. Even though his oeuvre can be divided into music played on oud and music played on guitar, he is able to extract such a wide and varied palette of colour from each instrument that you could easily describe his music as chameleonic.

Grdina’s grasp of the Middle Eastern (Persian) Beyati Modes, the Asiatic musical Maqam and the other modes – Phrygian, Ionian, Lydian, etc., associated with Greek and Western music – enable him to sculpt and chisel phrases with extraordinary finger vibrato. Thus, he crafts lines that are drenched in the very depth of emotion – swinging from unfettered exuberance to the heart-aching and tearful sadness. 

Whether he is playing oud or guitar the essence of Grdina’s poetics is the same; born of an extraordinary lyricism. This enables him to play notes that seem to ululate although he employs little tremolo. He also has a thrilling ability (especially on the oud) to make notes seem to hang in the air, and often even pirouette with a wailing voice like dervishes engaged in mesmeric dances, willing the music to ascend to a celestial realm. 

This is the kind of riveting magic that he brings to the music of The Marrow, which brings to life the poetry of 13th century Persian Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. On the disc Grdina shares headline credits – rightfully so – with the Persian vocalist Fathieh Honari. Extraordinary performances by bassist Mark Helias, cellist Hank Roberts and percussionist Hamin Honari also grace this recording. Together they shine the spotlight on loping lines of music awash in a palette of wet colours. From the long, lyrical lines of Not of Them through Raqib and Raqs e Parvaneh and Qalandar, Grdina and the rest of the performers join Honari in igniting little emotional fires made of Rumi’s poetry. 

13b Grdina Duo WorkCompared to the quiet blue flames of The Marrow, the music on Grdina’s Duo Work recording with percussionist Christian Lillinger crackles to life right out of the gate. Before long both musicians come together seemingly butting creative heads in one outsize offering after another, their demoniac temperaments (also blessed with an ethereal delicacy and the most fine-spun sonority) seem to turn the 12 tracks from Song One through Ash and Jalopy, to Song Two, into an irresistible musical inferno.

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