SYNETHESIA - DAVID MARTON - Navid Nikbakht - ACOUSTIC GUITAR MAJESTY and more - "Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"    
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Synesthesia: Synesthesia (CD, 56:09) Divan Music DM0100/00 2000
Divan Music
P.O. Box 18963
London W14 0XH
United Kingdom

OK jazz fans, what d'ya get when you cross Canadian culture with Iranian
culture? A back bacon kabob?  A genie in a beer bottle?  A hockey game where
the penalty for icing is decapitation?  No, sillies. you get acoustic jazz
newcomers Synesthesia, and a promising - but not perfect - self-titled debut
album full of sonic influences from around the globe and some SMOKIN' guitar
playing. Synesthesia takes a little while to get going, starting off
firmly rooted in the quagmire of "smooth jazz," but towards the end of the
CD the boys hit stride and show a TON of potential.  You can almost hear
them improving on every track as you listen.

Canadian guitarist David Martone and Iranian born guitarist Navid Nikbakht
are joined by percussionist Christoph Bracher to form the eclectic acoustic
jazz band, who are also joined at times from a United Nations-like roster of
musicians.  Martone and Nikbakht are both incredible guitarists - some of
Nikbakht solo runs make Al DiMeola sound like "El Kabong" in comparison (OK,
maybe that's a stretch, but you get the point). Unfortunately, with all the
talent these two guitarist possess, it takes them a few songs before things
get interesting as the first few tracks on the album are squarely rooted in
"generic smooth jazz"-land, complete with ersatz R&B drum programming and
sultry chord changes.  I was beginning to get the feeling of "been there,
done that" when out of nowhere I heard beautiful Arabic vocals kick off the
fifth track "Intersense," and from that moment on the CD gets better and
better with each track.

Let it be said that "Intersense" - in addition to its attractive
Arabic-styled violin and vocals - contains on of the fastest guitar runs I
have ever heard on a recording.  I actually had to rewind the CD a few times
to make sure that what I heard was actually what was played - Nikbakht's
runs were totally mind blowing!  "Intersense" leads into Martone's "way out
there" impression of Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C# Minor," which starts off
with some very atonal acoustic playing before David kicks in some
well-placed heavily distorted electric guitar chords to add some power to
the piece.  Following this piece, the boys briefly descend back into
elevator music territory with the Latin-influenced "Sultan Ghalbam";
however, despite this song's predictability, I will say that this cut
contains some insanely fast guitar runs that make it worth one's while to
sit through the rest of the song.

Following a beautifully played piece by Nikbakht titled "Abadan" is the
final - and most compelling - cut on the album, "Voluptuous Vulcan" (Kim
Catrall, call your office!).  Whereas most of the other tunes on the CD
stick to one formula from start to finish, the 15-minute "Vulcan" runs the
gamut from Caribbean sounding nylon string passages to the wail of electric
guitars, complete with feedback and more string bending than you'll find in
a harpist convention.  And once you've gotten to the acoustic vs. electric
guitar duel towards the end of the song, you'll most definitely be
captivated by these two guitarists and their versatility.

Other than a few cookie-cutter smooth jazz compositions, Synesthesia
is an excellent debut release from this incredibly talented band.  If their
next release moves more towards the fusion experimentation of "Voluptuous
Vulcan" and avoids being pigeon-holed in the dreadfully predictable world of
"smooth jazz", Synesthesia is definitely a band to watch in the future.

- Michael Askounes (

Navid Nikbakht: Guitars, Sitar
David Martone: Guitars, Bass, Programming
Christoph Bracher: Percussion, Programming
B.K. Chandrashekhar: Violin (Track 5)
Gary Crosby: Bass (Tracks 2,3)
Hugh Bullen: Bass (Tracks 1,5)
Hussein Farjami: Santour (Track 3)
Farnoosh Behzad: Programming, Keyboards
Nenah Reece: Vocals (Track 9)

1. Inquisitive Heart (7:11)
2. Shatki (6:06)
3. Conference of the Birds Part II (5:00)
4. Blue (4:10)
5. Intersense (6:20)
6. Prelude in C# Minor (4:50)
7. Sultan Ghalbam (5:32)
8. Abadan (2:33)
9. Voluptuous Vulcan (14:27)




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