Artist: Natalia Mann
Genre: Ethnic Jazz, Harp, Turkish, World, Neo Classical
Label: Rattle Records
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)
- Gül Çayı (4:52)
- Sunshine Sister (5:06)
- Üç Adım (6:16)
- When Once the Birds (6:06)
- Butterfly Effect (4:34)
- Greenstones (5:13)
- Akşam Duasi (7:38)
- 4.55 Air (1:10)
- Time (5:04)
- Interlude (For Groza) (2:38)
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Harpist/composer Natalia Mann’s exquisitely atmospheric compositions dwell in the subconscious’ netherworld. They could underscore paintings or photographs that conjure a perfumed dream where maybe only some things are familiar, but highly redolent of the unfamiliar. In general, the feeling of much of the music is soft and ambient, creating a flowing stream to jump in with eyes closed and heart open.
Indeed, Mann says: “It is my desire that people would experience pleasure when they listen to this album. That they could be taken away from the drudgery of ordinary life for a moment.” However, it is not a high-powered energetic impetus for dancing away your doldrums; on the contrary, it blissfully lifts you like a feather to float away from it all.
This album uses Turkish instruments along with Western instruments, but the former’s “Turkishness” is not apparent in traditional ways because they are being completely subsumed into another kind of texture. Using a pure approach to his sound, Sercan Halili’s relatively noninflected contributions on the kemençe in Akşam Duası don’t have any ethnic identity, per se; they are simply musical threads in the larger musical carpet, but they do add a color that can’t be found elsewhere.
However, these pieces are environmental, according to Mann, in that they were written in and under the influence of Istanbul. Listening to them, even without any prior knowledge, one can instantly feel a part of the hazy, mysterious, and sensual ambiance of Turkey, even if it’s completely drawn from one’s imagination of what Turkey might be like.
Gül Çayı (Rose Tea) is an intensely soulful piece, made so particularly by Halili’s sweet sound on the kemençe, a Turkish bowed string instrument that has its origins in Central Asia. It’s almost as if he’s absent-mindedly singing a plaintive song full of hüzün, the Turkish word for melancholy. Mann’s harp and Riki Gooch and Izzet Kızıl’s delicate percussion provide the perfect cradle for this baby.
Butterfly Effect has a chamber music feel with the bowed bass’ predominant melody accompanied by harp arpeggios and gently pulsating drums. Green Stones’ mystical setting of the Celtic harp tradition mixed with Pacific and New Zealand influences and sounds of taonga pūoro, instruments created from nature’s raw materials (the timbre of greenstone, the wing bone of an albatross, the leg bone of a dog), and Kızıl’s skillful support on drums gives us one of Mann’s most haunting creations.
When Once the Birds is a harp solo which is a paean to a time when birds had forests, which by now have been cut down, effectively forcing their migration. An almost ghoulish threnody on the edge of a primal scream, made so by some ambient tappings and scrapings from percussion; nevertheless, it keeps its animus intact with a strong adherence to its tonic chord modality, but with ghostly decor.
Akşam Duası (Evening Prayer) takes us into the imperceptibly slow descent of the sun at dusk and the ezan (prayer singer from the mosque’s minarets) via a lazy drumbeat and the kemençe’s unearthly voice. Both are joined by a more regular pulse from the harp and bass and a joyously jazzy groove is ended with the bass’ unfinished improv.
Sister Sunshine is an unabashedly major mode improvisational mix featuring Halili, who is able to swing nonchalantly on his ancient instrument. Üç Adım (Three Steps) is more in the dark ambient jazz mode where spooks may be lurking around the corner. Lucien Johnson’s chimerical soprano sax, somewhat in the background, is a sinewy siren, while his alto sax makes little side comments as Mann’s harp improvisations poke some innocent fun. But bassist Dine Doneff’s tremelo gets the last word like a scratchy cough in the dark.
This first full-length effort from Natalia Mann, as composer and leader, and her like-minded colleagues blends more than the East and West, it is a global musical collage of who she is. Her music is gently sexy, powerfully descriptive, abstract but not obtuse, and sings clearly from her soul.