Hear and now

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Paul Wei­de­man The New Mex­i­can

New Mex­ico venues this week­end host a dy­namic trio of mu­sic mak­ers — gui­tarist Bill Frisell, vi­o­lin­ist Eyvind Kang, and oud player Rahim Al­Haj — fo­cus­ing on a col­lab­o­ra­tive piece called The Bagh­dad/Seat­tle Suite. For Frisell, at least, it rep­re­sents a rare op­por­tu­nity to con­cen­trate on some­thing in a rel­a­tively re­lax­ing man­ner.

“We had five days in Min­neapo­lis just last month,” he said by tele­phone. “It was a fan­tas­tic kind of sit­u­a­tion at the Walker Art Cen­ter. That was where the mu­sic re­ally came to­gether. There are lit­tle ideas that we all brought, and we had time to get into it without the pres­sure. I mean, so many things th­ese days seems like you show up the day of the thing and you just have to go for it and do what­ever you can do. Prob­a­bly 99 per­cent of what I do is like that, so this was like we were in a re­ally nice place and we had all day ev­ery day to just play, and the mu­sic, you know, had time to come to­gether and evolve.”

The suite is a Cre­ation Fund project of the New Orleans-based Na­tional Per­for­mance Net­work that was com­mis­sioned by the Out­post Per­for­mance Space in Al­bu­querque in part­ner­ship with NPN and the Walker Art Cen­ter. The three mu­si­cians per­form the work on Fri­day, March 26, at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter and the fol­low­ing two nights at the Out­post Per­for­mance Space.

“This is re­ally about just the three of us get­ting to­gether,” Frisell said. “I’ve been play­ing with Eyvind about 15 years now. I met Rahim per­haps 10 years ago when I was play­ing at the Out­post — [Out­post di­rec­tor] Tom Gu­ral­nick in­tro­duced us — and we said it would be cool if we could play some­day, but it kept just float­ing around, year af­ter year.”

Al­Haj, who has played sev­eral dates in North­ern New Mex­ico in re­cent years, was born in Bagh­dad, Iraq. He stud­ied the oud, a stringed in­stru­ment com­mon in the Mid­dle East, with vir­tu­oso Mu­nir Bashir. Al­Haj left his na­tive coun­try dur­ing the pres­i­dency of Sad­dam Hus­sein, wind­ing up in Al­bu­querque in 2000. Since that time, he has toured and re­leased mul­ti­ple al­bums.

Kang, now a Seat­tle res­i­dent, was born in Cor­val­lis, Ore­gon. His mu­sic is wide-rang­ing and of­ten in­de­scrib­able. Into which bin does he fit at the record store? Check out some of his al­bum ti­tles and try to de­cide: Sweet­ness of Sickness; The Story of Ice­land; Live Low to the Earth, in the Iron Age; Vir­ginal Co­or­di­nates; Or­ches­tra Dim Bridges; and, most re­cently, Ath­lantis, a 12-part cel­e­bra­tion of out-there­ness that was re­leased in 2007. Since then, Kang has guested on projects by Frisell, Red Jacket Mine, Jenny Scheinman, Lou Reed, and a hand­ful of oth­ers.

Frisell, born in Bal­ti­more and raised in Den­ver, made his first gui­tar us­ing rub­ber bands and card­board; his in­spi­ra­tion was the Mickey Mouse Club’s head Mouseke­teer, Jimmy. His evo­lu­tion took a lit­tle jump in 1964 when he heard Frank Zappa’s al­bum Freak Out. The year of his 14th birth­day, 1965, was a land­mark: he used money earned on a news­pa­per route to buy his first elec­tric gui­tar (a Fender Mus­tang), went to his first con­cert (Her­man’s Her­mits), and started his first band. His ex­po­sure to live mu­sic ex­panded when he saw per­for­mances by Jimi Hen­drix and Ravi Shankar in 1966, Chuck Berry in 1967, and Th­elo­nious Monk, Can­non­ball Ad­der­ley, Gary Bur­ton, and oth­ers in 1968.

Eyvind Kang

Rahim Al­Haj

Bill Frisell

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