Gilded Serpent presents...
Jazayer's "Enchanted Journey"
CD Review
by Surreyya

Any of you who perform outside the confines of your own living room surely understand the difficulty of wearing your heart on sleeve! Not only does it take hours of preparation, study, practice and rehearsal but also the mental preparation alone can send you to seek help from a shrink.

There will always be someone to tell you how to do it differently, or who was disturbed by your art.

However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It feels great when people like your stuff. It feels bad when they don't. Somewhere on both sides are granules of wisdom you can garner if you can get over yourself.

If you only listen to those who praise you, you will never grow.

All of which brings me to Jazayer:
What is Jazayer? Who is its audience? What do the members of Jazayer intend with this CD "Enchanted Journey?" What is the story? How did this work come together? A cup of coffee, their liner notes, and fifteen or more passes of their album via headphones, car stereo, home stereo (and elsewhere) still does not explain it to me. The liner notes have turned me off in the very first couple of sentences, explaining that Jazayer is a "musician's band." What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Even as a musician, I find it irritating when an ensemble classifies itself that way. You might have cut out a significant part of your audience with those words! I find it hard to believe anyone would want to limit the number of potential listeners. The attitude implied here is that this band takes pride in the complexity of its arrangements, and only musicians could appreciate the complexity.

"It is easy to make easy music sound good." they say.

Also, the liner notes and song descriptions do not hold back in complimenting the group. While there is nothing wrong with blowing ones own horn, a little humility can go a long way in creating a positive perception.

Further down the liner notes, there is a brief explanation of key elements of each song. Unfortunately, I have been jaded by the first couple of paragraphs and the song data loses its helpfulness and feels more like high-minded musicians delivering half-baked educational babble, name dropping and sprinkling buzzwords to and fro. (A website with bio information might be a more subtle way to reinforce credibility. If people like the music, they will seek more information.)

If I am basing my review upon:

  • production quality,
  • composition,
  • performance,

I generally cut artists slack if they achieve two of those things. Unfortunately, the magic combination of at least two of those elements only happens a few times in this album, but it does happen! The music magic to which I allude is one that comes together with a true "musician's band."  It is comprised of that in-the-pocket energy which happens when musicians can musically finish each other's sentences. Because of all the name-dropping and the music lesson in the recording liner, I was expecting something different from what I heard, although there are a few gems within.

Undoubtedly, these are talented musicians, but there are some overall problems and inconsistencies with the mix and clarity and overall production quality.

There is also the difficulty factor. Advanced musicians play difficult arrangements for many different reasons, skill, inspiration, challenge, etc. I will not deny Jazayer the complexity of its compositions. Does complexity add value or has the group made things difficult for the sake of their being difficult? I can drink more raki than some of my Turkish friends.it may not be smart, it may not be graceful, but I can still do it. Who cares about melon and cheeses, conversations and other delights I have missed along the way? 

Making a musical arrangement more difficult does not make it more appealing.

Here is my guide for selecting potential dance tracks from this album:

  • "Genie Love" is a slower, more emotional piece that has excellent drumming, oud, and gentle strings. The solos speak some obvious emotion in this song without becoming to self-serving.
  • "My My Ym Ym" features some clever stops and starts and wonderful bass playing and the saba makam used in this piece is enjoyable.
  • "Nines over Easy" is a showpiece with intricate drum patterns weaving in and out of it. This song sounds as if the musicians are truly enjoying what they are playing. Some of Vince Delgado's Turkish influences truly shine in this
  • and also in the second 9/8 tune, "Aladdin's Dance" which follows.
Tom Shader plays exceptional bass on both tunes as well and the violin playing by Devi-ja Delgado Croll is elegant throughout.

From a marketing angle, Jazayer's approach, wording, and story could profit from some rethinking, especially since not all of the performances back up the claims in the liner. The "musician's band" label does not work in this instance; this is not an album for developed or refined musical taste buds. Jazayer makes great attempts to deliver difficult music, but "difficult" is the keyword. The actual difficulty lies in listening to this album from cover to cover because it is difficult to make difficult music sound good.

Please do not misunderstand me here: all these musicians are talented, skilled and savvy. Sometimes, they click together, but sometimes, they don't.

This CD is available through Vince's site at www.vincedelgado.com

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