2008 / Shadowside Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Scheherazade is an instrumental portrait of the narrator of the legendary “1001 Arabian Nights.” Hypnotic and exotic, the music weaves its own magic as it tells Scheherazade’s tale. Her story revolves around an Arabian sultan or king who was betrayed by his first wife. Determined to never again be hurt by love, the sultan vows to marry a new bride every night and have her executed in the morning. This soon takes a terrible toll on the population of young women in the kingdom, so Scheherazade offers herself as the king’s next bride. After a night of passion, Scheherazade tells her new husband a story before they go to sleep, the first of the “1001 Tales.” She entrances him with her story, but stops before the end. Desperate to hear the rest of the story, the king allows her to live another day. She does this night after night until the king finally realizes he is in love with her.
Al Conti has done a superlative job of creating a fusion of world music with a strong Middle Eastern flavor. Utilizing traditional instruments from Persia, Arabia, and India, Conti adds piano, guitar, violin, and electronic keyboards to the rich blend, creating a musical palette with a wide range of colors. Born and raised in Argentina, Conti has traveled extensively and lived in several parts of the world. He has had an acting career on American television, in commercials, and onstage in the US and abroad. Scheherazade is his third album. It is impossible to not think of Yanni’s early work when listening to parts of this album with its passion and unbridled joy in making music. I’m hooked!
Scheherazade begins with “Daughter of the City,” a magical piece that sets the stage. Exotic sounds and rhythms surround a simple but seductive melody played on the piano. Conti lets us know right away that this is going to be a very different musical experience! “Desert Nights” is slow, sultry, and very beautiful, with flute casting a spell. “Shahryar” is the sultan, and his piece is much darker and more mysterious. “Seven Veils To Midnight” recalls their first night together as Scheherazade puts her plan in motion. Strong rhythms quicken the pulse as excitement builds. “A Thousand Tales” is my favorite of the tracks. A little more western, perhaps, but the gentle melody and infectious rhythms are as compelling as Scheherazade’s stories. During her days, Scheherazade finds a quiet place in the “Palace Gardens” to craft her next story. The gardens have their own magic and mystery. “Eternal Majesty” is a graceful, stirring portrayal of Scheherazade’s courage and cleverness as she becomes the heroine of her own timeless tale. “Heart Triumphant” brings this magnificent legend to a close as the sultan officially recognizes Scheherazade as his queen.
Scheherazade was on many “best of” lists for 2008, and if you haven’t yet discovered the magic of Al Conti’s music, I highly recommend it. It is widely available at online music outlets and download sites. Check it out!
February 16, 2009