June 2008

Strunz & Farah
Presented by Small World Music Society
June 1, 2008 Enwave Theatre Toronto
Strung Out On Middle Eastern Melodies
by Laila Boulos
In the warm and intimate setting of Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre, Ardeshir Farah and Jorge Strunz effortlessly commanded the room during their 75-minute set. For this evening's performance, the duo were accompanied by Jimmy Branly on cajon, bongos and hand percussion; Carlitos del Puerto on an absolutely stunning upright bass; and, Rob Hardt on flute and clarinet.

Like two well-heeled swashbucklers, Strunz and Farah charmed their audience with trademark vagabond melodies surging with free-flowing and playful sensuality. In true swashbuckling form, they rode their audience into the dreamy sunset, and just as they (the audience) were drifting off, either Strunz, or Farah, with their intuitive improvisational teamwork, would spirit their hostages up a mountain in a flurry, as they wound their way intricately up and down their respective fret boards, demonstrating the musical genius under the swashbuckling facade.

Their intricate improvisation had their audience spellbound as the normally expected rhythmic patterns were practically spat upon. Although they played as a cohesive team throughout the evening, there were a few short, yet powerful solos such as Carlitos del Puerto's "Delilah"-reminiscent throbbing bass expertise on "Motivos" and the feather-light dancing of Rob Hardt's flute on "Pasitos" and finally, the locomotion-emulating whirlwind produced by Strunz and Farah on "Caspian Night" which parked too soon at the station.

And, Strunz's improvisational talents were definitely in effect during Jimmy Branly's indulgent throw-the-stopwatch-out-the-window percussion solo on "Bola" as he bravely, and with "Concierto de Aranjuez" precision, leapt in to be followed hastily by the other members.

Strunz and Farah use flamenco guitars crafted to their specifications; the cutaway design allowing the left hand greater access to the fret board. This ability was taken full advantage of on this particular evening as they dazzled the crowd with their Middle Eastern and Latin musical feasts of sound.

Strunz and Farah
The mysterious, passionate pieces swirled over the rapt audience as one song flowed unbroken into the next like an endless stream of fragrant incense smoke. And, not wishing to break the magic, Strunz spoke only twice: once to introduce the three musicians accompanying them and again to dedicate the final song, "Bola", to the audience.

Consistent enthusiastic whistles and bursts of applause pierced the intoxicating melodies throughout the performance. And, after the final piece, the riotous flamenco-inspired stamping of feet and thunderous clapping demanding an encore were testaments to the hunger the audience was still experiencing. Thankfully, the floorboards did not come crashing down and Strunz and Farah once again took over the stage for their encore; a hypnotic rendition of the snake charming, "Caspian Night".

Musically inseparable since their meeting in 1979, Iranian Ardeshir Farah and Costa Rican, Jorge Strunz have been consistently gathering awestruck fans and awards during their almost three decades together. Primal Magic, released in 1990, was awarded Billboard's World Music Album of the Year and 1992's Américas (also on the Mesa/Atlantic label) garnered a Grammy nomination. They currently head their own artist-friendly record company, Selva, meaning jungle, through which they released Billboard's Top 10 World Music Charting Heat of the Sun. Paco de Lucía once recommended Strunz as a replacement for Al Di Meola in The Guitar Trio and they have both collaborated with artists such as Rubén Blades and Sting.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
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