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Album Review

Iranian guitarist Pouya Mahmoodi put his music online and found an early fan in drummer Billy Cobham, who ended up contributing work to two tracks here, including the stunning opener, "Si Pareh," where Mahmoodi puts a tune to words by legendary Persian poet Rumi. It's a marvelous piece of work that easily straddles genres — a little soft rock, some singer/songwriter, a hint of jazz, and a brief guitar solo that could be a low-volume Jimmy Page, all with a high level of intensity and lyricism (and the kind of guitar playing that would have lesser mortals chopping off their wrists). In a way it sums up the entire disc, where Mahmoodi mixes his Iranian roots with different Western styles (predominantly jazz, but also some blues) to create a loving, melodic hybrid that manages to sound both familiar and exotic. He has a good enough band, and the programming is used with a light touch (he's also a reasonable, if not scintillating, singer). Above all, it's the guitar work that captures the ear — light, tasty, and with a sense of roots and adventure. Apart from the opener, the highlight may well be "Me Va To," a Middle Eastern blues that seems to owe more to West Africa than it does to America, but with enough modal tinkering to keep things nicely off balance. Mehr marks the debut of a major talent.

Mehr, Pouya Mahmoodi
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