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Esthema - 2009 - "The Hereness and Nowness of Things"

(51:26, 'Esthema')

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Change of Season 9:28
2.  Eastern Dance 4:35
3.  A Place to Rest 4:08
4.  Arrhythmia 7:44
5.  Forward Motion 5:03
6.  Four Colors 6:48
7.  Illusion of Truth 6:52
8.  On & On 6:48


Andy Milas  guitars 
Onur Dilisen  violin 
Ignacio Long  bass 
Bruno Esrubilsky - drums
Tery Lemanis  oud, bouzouki
Karim Georges  doumbek (1, 2, 6)
Roby Ryczek  cello (1, 4)

Prolusion. The US-based band ESTHEMA has been around for about four years now. "The Hereness and Nowness of Things" is its second release and first full-length album, following two years after the "Apart From the Rest" EP.

Analysis. This US band, sporting cultural connections from about as many corners of the world as the band has members, describes itself as a world fusion ensemble. And while I agree fully with the first and last part of that idiom, my opinion is that its middle part is somewhat misleading, at least if seen in the context of musical style rather than musical approach. If the latter is the case, however, fusion would be an apt description of the music on this disc, because this isn't an album blending rock and jazz first and foremost. Instead, world and folk (or perhaps ethnic) music are the main and key ingredients here. Jazz offers a strong seasoning though, while aspects of the compositions catering to a rock-interested audience are more sparingly used as sonic spices on a few select occasions. Esthema's musical vision is stated as "fusing elements from the traditional music of the Eastern European Balkan region and the Near and Middle East with Progressive Rock and various styles of Jazz." Which might be correct as well; I'm not overly familiar with these traditions myself and can't really give an expert opinion as such. From my more narrow musical knowledge, I'd describe the style explored on this production in a rather different manner, though. The rhythm section and regular guitar contribute to the few instances of rock found, but personally I find them more often than not providing a gypsy-flavored jazz and fusion sound with references back to the old maestro Django Reinhardt. Lemanis adds flavorings from Arabian and Greek folk music with his oud and bouzouki, and these two instruments dominate the proceedings along with the violin of Dilisen, which in turns seems to wander rather freely between the aforementioned gypsy-inspired jazz tradition and what to my ears sounds like distinct Persian-tinged sound and expression. The cultural origins of the music are less important than the end result though, and in this case it is a very captivating one. The opening track Change of Season and the following effort Eastern Dance in particular come across as compositions closing in on pure perfection and brilliance. The other compositions don't intrigue as much, perhaps due to the rather similar sound explored throughout, but are solid efforts nonetheless.

Conclusion. If you have a soft spot for world music and jazz in general and for Greek and Arabian folk music in particular, then Esthema is a band you will want to get more familiar with. Their blend of Django-influenced jazz and the folk music traditions mentioned above is very well made, and with enough sophistication to avoid taking on the cliched varieties of folk and jazz blend that have been explored by other artists over the years. There's not too much rock in this musical potpourri though, so those looking for music easily defined as progressive rock in some form might want to stay clear of this venture.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 21, 2010
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