I have been following Iranian saxophonist and music theorist for quite a while, actually ever since his first album "In Chromodal Discourse" from 1993, and despite his obvious evoluetion, my opinion on his approach to music has barely changed over time. Modirzadeh has been working for decades on his "chromodal" and now "post-chromodal" music systems.
“Chromodality” as originally developed to integrate Persian tones with Western equal temperament to further explore harmonic possibilities in jazz. He has since expanded his concept to encompass a “post-chromodal” approach in which all kinds of intervals co-exist; one with meta-cultural potential that allows each musician to use his own distinctive voice to explore music from a full palette of tonal possibilities. The result is not simply some sort of mash-up; it is no less than an effort to altogether transcend cultural differences".
To be clear : this is not about fusion, it is not about mixing styles and genres. It is indeed about transcending genres and cultural differences.
The band is Amir ElSaffar on trumpet, Ken Filiano on bass, Royal Hartigan on drums, Vijay Iyer on piano, and Hafez Modirzadeh himself on the saxes. They are joined on a few tracks,the "Interludes" by Danongan Kalanduyan on the Filipino kulintang, Faraz Minooei on santur, and Timothy Volpicella on electric guitar.
Yet to be clear, this is not world jazz, nor a blending of styles but something new and unique, extremely well-played by all musicians although Iyer's detuned piano offers the most bizarre sounds at times, yet beautifully.
Where my feelings are mixed, as always with Modirzadey, is that he combines sublime music with a very programmatic, almost didactic display of what his method can bring, showcasing it in quintet, quartet, trio, duo or solo settings, in more traditional jazz modes or more modern or traditional forms, and the only thing I keep thinking is : "let go, let go, let go, forget your theory, forget your system, feel the music, play it, expand on it, baffle us with the music, move us with aesthetic beauty, touch us with its emotional power, and let the brainy part be hidden". Technique, structure, theory and such are fine. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman used chromatic, modal and harmolodic innovations to sound different, they never made them the subject of their music, but rather the secret of it.
As it should be. Magicians don't show their tricks. Modirzadeh is at its best outside of his own created theoretical positioning. I love to hear him that way.