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Circle of Fire

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Album Review

Some musicians excel by finding a time-tested approach and sticking to it. Jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton, for example, has excelled by sticking with a '40s-minded swing-to-bop approach; he was never innovative or forward-thinking, but he's superb at what he does and typically offers albums that are solid and pleasing, if predictable. Other musicians, however, fly by the seat of their pants, and that is exactly what musician/producer/composer Benjy Wertheimer does on Circle of Fire. This largely instrumental CD is a perfect example of world fusion, which can mean many different things to many different people. The Chieftains, who usually have an Irish-Celtic orientation, engaged in world fusion when they joined forces with some Chinese musicians in 1987 and offered an unlikely but successful fusion of Irish and Chinese elements. Wertheimer doesn't venture into Irish or Chinese territory on Circle of Fire, but he takes chances in other ways and offers a musical potpourri that draws on Indian, Arabic, African, and Indonesian music as well as funk and rock. In addition to producing and engineering this intriguing CD and doing all of the writing, Wertheimer plays electric keyboards and a variety of traditional acoustic instruments — everything from Indian tabla drums to the djembe (a string instrument from West Africa). And much to his credit, he usually makes all this multicultural experimentation sound organic and natural rather than forced. Not everything he tries works; when you have the guts to be as chance-taking as Wertheimer, you run the risk of trying some things that don't work out creatively. But more than not, Wertheimer's experimentation pays off on Circle of Fire.


Genre: World

Years Active: '00s

Mostly known for his work as a founding member of the Ancient Future ensemble, Indian world music enthusiast Benjy Wertheimer also carries on a solo career on the side. From his town of Portland, Oregon, Wertheimer took years of studying classical Indian composition and has applied it to a pop sound that is surprisingly catchy and danceable while maintaining the integrity of the genre. Wertheimer started as a touring multi-instrumentalist, but his work with Ancient Future and the Zakir Hussain...
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Circle of Fire, Benjy Wertheimer
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