Downstairs at Avalon, August 29
That the band’s name means to blow softly already says much. The Persian culture, ravaged by the 1979 Iranian revolution, was one of poetry not only in words, but in music. Since moving to Australia Hamed Sadeghi has given us glimpses of this culture through his band, Eishan Ensemble, his stunning underscoring of The Iliad Out Loud, and through this improvising trio with Jeremy Rose and Lloyd Swanton.
Sadeghi plays the tar, a cousin of the lute with an hourglass-shaped body covered in a lambskin membrane, and three double courses of strings. Given its narrow range and scalar options (without retuning), one might expect it to act as a constraint on Rose (bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones) and Lloyd Swanton (double bass), but this was no more the case than the sonnet form constrained gifted Elizabethan poets.
Across two long improvisations the three could have given even more space than they did to their brilliant solo and duo sections. The trios, nonetheless, were admirably multifaceted, whether the three instruments were conversationally intertwined, or one or two provided ostinatos while the other(s) soloed or conversed.
This was an ideal acoustic and musical environment in which to relish Swanton’s generous, woody sound, the beautifully developed architecture of his solos, and his finely-tuned instinct – honed in the Necks – for sliding between foreground, mid-ground and background roles – a fluidity shared by Sadeghi and Rose. One gripping section had a sinuous bass ostinato, against which the tenor maintained a soft, breathy hum, and Sadeghi’s solo was like the lament of an inconsolable mother.
Played with a brass plectrum and having metal strings, the amplified tar scythed through the backgrounds when necessary with a sound both urgent and melancholy. Sadeghi could also make the instrument whisper by playing just one rather than both strings of a given course, or could act as the glue between bass and saxophone. One of the most captivating phases came in a three-way conversation (with Rose on tenor) that was so gentle it was like three wind-chimes bouncing off each other. When it became more strident, they astutely made it also sparser, before a phase in which the tenor and bowed bass held drones, while Sadeghi used tremolo picking, the uncanny effect being of three human voices singing in harmony.