Kamancello‘s debut album offers a bit of aural trickery, as the tracks are improvised, but sound composed. The duo of Shahriyar Jamshidi on kamanche (also known as Persian spike-fiddle) and Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello offers impressive stereo mastering that makes the listener feel like part of the concert. As the cellist of Flying Horses, Weinroth-Browne is accustomed to offering surprise timbres, and he continues this tradition here. The description of “East meets West” is apt, as the flowing, folklike sounds of the kamache are melded to exciting cello passages that fill the project with an internal light that might enable it to cross over to a wider audience. The recent success of mainstream projects such as 2Cellos and Lindsey Stirling has broken the field wide open, and audiences looking for something more adventurous will find it here.
At numerous points the instruments perform a pas de deux, which morphs from call and response to pure takeover. When the darker cello notes hit on “Serpentine”, they strike as choruses, accompanied by percussive taps. Whenever one instrument holds back, the other rushes in. Even after numerous album spins, one still hears the music as composed ~ a testament to the duo’s chemistry. Without pauses or awkward hesitations, the music plunges from one narrative to the next, confident and trusting. In order for this to occur, one needs a perfect harmonic instinct, as well as the boldness to bow the notes as they come. The breath of the performers is proof of the live format, but one can also see the performances on YouTube. Finally one scans the set and realizes the point: there is no sheet music. While watching, one thinks of guitarists headbanging and jamming out, and smiles knowing that such intensity is not restricted to the field of rock.
Certain passages (especially in the second half of “Radiance”) imitate folk traditions. A connection can be made from Jamshidi’s melodies to those of Appalachian mountain music: a testimony to the power of music as a unifying factor. Not that the Persian influence is recessed; a single track later, it rises to the foreground. Perhaps the biggest surprise (although not to Constellation fans) is that the duo hails from Canada. As such, they represent even greater beliefs: that cultures can mingle without losing their distinct identities, and that diversity inspires richness. In the end, Kamancello is an explosion of joy. The national origin doesn’t matter; we can all hear unity in these grooves. (Richard Allen)