Venice, California, USA – The latest production by The Doors
drummer John Densmore is Ray of the Wine, an album by Persian-American
musician Reza. The Middle East meets West in the Hen House studio, where the
quintessential American rock musician’s mandate was to westernize the
arrangements of the Persian folk and classical music that Reza, a longtime New
Yorker, has been wanting to bring to the United States. Reza observes, “The
fact that a Persian musician worked with one of The Doors is a big deal.”Densmore, who played drums on the album and wrote its vivid liner notes,
humorously describes Ray of the Wine as “peaceful sounds from The Axis of
Evil,”‘ adding reverently, “Reza plays magic. He has all these
instruments that look like they belong in the Smithsonian.”
Comparing each song on Ray of the Wine to “a painting, with different colors
and feelings,” Reza strokes the rhythms and melodies of mysticism, divinity,
and human love – most taken from the lyrical pages of ancient Persian poetry and
a few he wrote – with “brushes” such as the tar, sitar, ney, kamanche,
and Farsi incantations.
Ironically, Densmore wasn’t familiar with certain instruments to be used on Ray
of the Wine when he and Reza began pre-production, but laughs, “I immediately
resonated to the music and knew what to do. It sounds a little pompous, but I
An acclaimed painter whose evocative water color imagery ensconces the CD, Reza
says, “I want to make the connection, even if the language is different. The
music translates to the American audience. There’s more recognition of Indian
music and the Arab world in the West, but there hasn’t been a lot of
understanding of Persian music, because it hasn’t been introduced the way it
should be, in order to make a connection. This music has that quality, the way
it’s presented, and I hope makes it more listenable. “The music is not totally
traditional or from a different world,” he assures quietly. “People can
relate to it, at least in terms of the color and arrangement.”
Densmore adds, “It blows my mind that in the last 10 years, America is
accepting music in languages it can’t speak. Look at the Buena Vista Social
Club; it went through the roof. You get the feeling of the culture, even if you
don’t literally understand the lyrics. Reza’s songs are so beautiful that they
transcend the language barrier.”
Ray of the Wine was recorded live in three days, and conveys the improvisation
of “instruments talking to each other,” as Densmore succinctly explains.
However, all that spontaneity among crack musicians Osama Afiffi (electric
bass), Quinn Johnson (keyboards), Christina Berio (percussion), and Stephen Kent
(didgeridoo), took a lot of cross-country pre-production between him and Reza.
“It was really fun, like a jazz record,” says Densmore, who was also
the executive producer along with Harlan Steinberger, whose revolutionary Hen
House Studios offers free recording time to musicians in exchange for the right
to film them during the process.
Reza asserts, “Harlan kept the record alive,” referring to the long
hibernation of Ray of the Wine after its completion.
Born in Tehran, Reza studied Persian classical and folk music. His recording
credits include the soundtrack to Mel Gibson’s David and Goliath. He recently
gave two performances at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. He and Densmore
plan to gig in Los Angeles, with the distinct possibility of touring behind Ray
of the Wine.
Ray of the Wine].