Friday, November 17, 2023

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily - Haseen Thi

I saw Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily recently, on September 14, 2023, in New York at the Town Hall. They were surprisingly good. I liked Aftab's slightly assertive stance on stage, a glass of wine in hand, one leg slightly in front of the other, unafraid and unselfconscious. The crowd was a bit uptight and reverential--middle class NPR liberals--but the music was occasionally just enough exploratory to make you think that it was all improvised.

I actually had low expectations for their collaborative album, Love In Exile (2023), not because they're not individually good--Vijay Iyer especially has been very adventurous--but because I expected a kind of Starbucks-lite muzaky thing. But I have to admit I like the album quite a lot. It floats by, but also tugs at you, drawing you in despite yourself, making you pay attention to the tones and timbre of the music, much like Aftab's fantastic solo album from last year, Vulture Prince (2021). There's a real three-dimensionality to the music, and her voice especially is quite gorgeous. This track is one of my favorites, "Haseen Thi."

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