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Nima & Merge

Separate Worlds

Review by Josh Turner

On this disc, there are many lurid instrumentals. The music is elusively melancholic with the most wistful flow. If you like jazz fusion that mixes what's straight-ahead, sentimental, yet scrappy, this could be an album that's just right for you. It's never too ordinary nor does it get too sappy. It's just sweet-sounding songs for the actively attentive listener.

Nima & Merge utilize a steadfast and steady crew. Nima Rezai is at the helm with three of his trustiest sailors. Nima plays the Stick and Ashbury bass while Dan Heflin is all business when it comes to a myriad of sax-inspired solos. Also on deck, Brad Ranola's the drummer who sets the beat. Last, but not least, Randy Graves is a rebellious guitarist who really jams. Aside from these traditional tools, the songs feature a number of unusual devices. Randy does double duty by filling in the role of the didheridu and presiding over a communal of the clapsticks.

To set this to sea, it takes a gang full of guests to man the stations. Added to the list are Masaru Koga on flutes and Jesus Florida on violins. Both appear to be posted in numerous places. There are also a couple of visitors who each make one appearance apiece. The first would be Alex Postelnek who transforms one of the tunes ("Never More") with something called a "tabla." The second is Ali Shayesteh who provides a Saz and Bouzouki ("To Be Free"). Both of their contributions are each rare and special. As long as we are mentioning everybody who's played a part, an additional recording that's worked in is borrowed from Ben Burling ("Road to Hana"). In some form or another, Nima shares in almost all the songwriting tasks. When he isn't the chief, he is the co-conspirator on all but one track. The exception is a song written exclusively by Toby Rosen ("Masaek") whose responsibilities also include the engineering and mastering of the album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at https://garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2005.

Track by Track Review
Fire Eyes
In the opener, the brass section is king. The saxes are rigid and hard, making it impossible to penetrate their metal. The knights at the gate are protected by this armor. Residing inside, the acoustic guitar shares the most regal riffs. Similarly so, the synths are suitable for a royal coronation.
Road To Hana
In a song that moves like the "Mamba," the sax really swings.
The strings strut with glamour. Their catwalk is wild, wily, and wiry. As a counterpart to the others, Masaru is a wallflower, sighing and moaning on a somber flute.
Moon Struck
The jazz in this piece is silky-smooth. You'll find delight in each icy wet and velvety mouthful. It's like soft-serve yogurt streaming into a dish and then scooped with a spoon.
Separate Worlds Suite

Driven
This is squeezed from the juiciest of oranges and it's refined tropical refreshment. As you're skipping a yacht across the bay, you'll enjoy this slushy citrus beverage. It spends a lot of time drifting and wandering about the water. This is simple, but busy, as the bass, sax, and drums ripple over this tune's tepid waves.
Once Loved
The flutes dominate the frontier out in this space. It might not jitter or jive as much as Jethro Tull, but it definitely has that seventies down-to-earth texture. Accompanying the flutes are electronic reverberations, which resonate and hum with a spacey quiver.
Never More
The solo occurrence of Alex's tabla surfaces in this song. It meows and purrs with the drone of an angry feline. Aside from these noises and streaks of Jesus' strings, this merely continues the catcalls that hissed at us in the last piece.
Kurdish Dance
This ditty dances to the beat of its own drums. The percussions click and clang with the tenacity of a tambourine. These are Dan's best rhythms yet. The arrival of the Ashbury bass goes almost undetected. It's hushed, reserved, and soft-spoken to a point it could even be a whisper. Without making a peep, it lays a luxuriant carpet over the walls. The piece eventually picks up when the sax slams open the doors. It charges in unannounced then runs its course before resting itself in the background. This piece has verve, vivacity, and volume. It might start out flat and with very little animation, but eventually the graphics come alive. The finished painting has the most active and articulate color. This is my favorite song since it is the most comprehensive cut on the album.
Maseak
This thirty-second song packs in the percussions and stacks up the synths. While it might be dainty, the violins waver with a ton of weight. 
Reng
Complementing all the standard selections, we get a combination of clapsticks, didjeridu, and strings. If you're wondering what they do, the didjeridu growls and the clapsticks snarl. In this cornucopia of sounds, we get countless spirited solos. When the flutes are not spitting fire, it is the saxes that fume.
Ittf
This could almost work as a backdrop for Enya's angelic voice. It's a short segue that climbs way up into the clouds.
To Be Free
Movement 1
Ali's Saz and Bouzouki are the featured instruments cemented here. They rip the rocks from the street and replace what's left bare. The new path is paved with hot and sticky tar.
Movement 2
After laboring under a blistering sun, this is a very welcome break. Sitting inside a trailer with the air-conditioner cranked to its max, this cools the sweat from our brow and gives us time to rest our feet. The relief provided in this reprieve is truly succinct, but it's more than enough to alleviate fatigue and escape the heat.
Movement 3
We carry on the construction that commenced in the earlier movement. These capsules are packed with the most potent cayenne powder. Jesus' strings drill through the drains of the plugged-up sewer system. His efforts flush away the filth buried in these cavernous cavities.
Movement 4
To complete this tri-state highway interchange, they use aggressive treatment on the drums, sax, and bass. What's left behind is rinsed, loosens, and then breaks free. Overall, the music on this album will appeal to people who are fond of fusion. For fans of the genre, this offers something similar, but not altogether analogous. The music is contemporary jazz, but it's unique between the songwriting, musicianship, and instrument selection.
 
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