Sharon Isbin Releases “Strings for Peace” with Amjad Ali Khan as well as “Affinity”
Affinity, features Four World Premiere Recordings written for Sharon Isbin including Chris Brubeck’s Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra celebrating the Dave Brubeck Centennial
Strings for Peace with Sharon Isbin and Sarod Masters Amjad Ali Khan and Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash.
Multiple Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin, who has been acclaimed for expanding the guitar repertoire with some of the finest new works of our time, has two new world premiere recordings of works written for her to be released on May 22, 2020 on ZOHO. Affinity (ZM 202005) featuring multi-faceted and virtuosic works by leading composers from three continents, and Strings for Peace (ZM 202004), an album steeped in the tradition of ragas and talas of North Indian classical music with sarod master Amjad Ali Khan and his virtuoso sons Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, are both groundbreaking releases that vastly enrich major new repertoire for guitar.
On the historic ZOHO release, Affinity, legendary guitarist Sharon Isbin performs the jazz and world music-influenced title work, Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra by Chris Brubeck, with the Maryland Symphony/Elizabeth Schulze, marking Strathmore Concert Hall’s first commercial release. Her live performances of the work have been praised in reviews for “Isbin delivering rapid-fire virtuosity and a tender jazz-based tribute to Chris’ father Dave Brubeck.” From the Africa-influenced El Decameron Negro by iconic Cuban guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer, through the Chinese and Spanish-inspired Seven Desires for Guitar by Tan Dun, to Richard Danielpour’s sensual song cycle Of Love and Longing (with multiple Grammy winner Isabel Leonard), Sharon Isbin gives her inimitable imprint to, and vastly enriches major new repertoire for guitar. The four world premieres also include a two-guitar arrangement for her by Colin Davin of Antonio Lauro‘s Waltz #3 Natalia.
Strings for Peace, features four compositions by legendary sarod master Amjad Ali Khan based on four popular ragas specifically written and arranged for Sharon Isbin: By the Moon – Raga Behag, Love Avalanche – Raga Mishra Bhairav, Romancing Earth – Raga Pilu and Sacred Evening – Raga Yaman. The four artists are accompanied on the tabla by Amit Kavthekar, a disciple of two giants of Indian drumming, Alla Rakha and his son Zakir Hussain. Isbin calls the music Amjad Ali Khan composed for guitar and sarod “sheer genius,” adding, “in an amazing way, it interweaves our varied musical, spiritual and artistic traditions with mystical beauty, creativity, grace and great emotion.” The Times of India, in reviewing their recent tour, raved how the musicians “crossed barriers of language, culture, uniting people through music and melody … the power of their performance rocked the hall!” This sense of unity and oneness is all the more poignant given that Delhi is experiencing its worst sectarian mob violence in decades.
Strings for Peace debuted at number 3 on the Amazon Hot New Releases/World Music bestseller list and rose to number 2 in its first week.
“I also love the dialogue back and forth between Sharon’s guitar and Ayaan’s sarod…It’s HIGHLY sensual, both in a spiritual way and in a kind of sexy way!”
(5-minute feature starts at 25:26)
“Love Avalanche” a cool East-meets-West raga featuring multiple Grammy-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin paired with the Indian sarod master Ayaan Ali Bangash.”
NPR Music’s No. 1 Albums And Songs Of May
“I can tell you that if you’re seeking music both emotional and inspiring, you will love “Raga Mishra Bhairav” (Love Avalanche)… in addition to Sharon’s enchanting guitar work, you will also hear Amjad Ali Khan, sarod; Amaan Ali Bangash, sarod; Ayaan Ali Bangash, sarod and Amit Kavthekar, tabla…The gentle approach on the opening sonic salvo, “Raga Behag” (By The Moon), made it my personal favorite of the four (long) ragas offered up for your spiritual enlightenment and sonic joy… if any music can inspire unity – it is this piece… you will find yourself listening to this tune over and over again. I give all the players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this very enjoyable music.”
Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“‘Affinity’ by name, affinity by nature, Sharon Isbin’s terrific latest recording evinces a wonderful talent for making fully hers what was written for her, regardless of style. Chris Brubeck’s Concerto for guitar and orchestra Affinity is a single-movement work in three sections: the first bright, jazzy and energetic; the second, based on a melody by his father, jazz great Dave Brubeck, mellow and Chopin-haunted; the third a whirling percussive dance infused with foot-tapping Brazilian and Middle Eastern vibes. Though Rodrigo isn’t far away, either. Ably accompanied by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra under Elizabeth Schulze, Isbin gives a sparkling, virtuoso account that neatly underscores Brubeck’s bountiful musical syncretism, while revealing a wider vista with smaller peaks and valleys visible in the distance.”
“Sharon Isbin has been a tireless commissioner of new work and her latest album Affinity is no exception with several recent compositions set alongside some old friends. It’s Chris Brubeck’s 18-minute Guitar Concerto—the longest and most colorful work here—that gives the album its title and opens proceedings…Highly energetic, melodically infectious, and colorfully scored, Affinity is a real crowd pleaser, and with her immaculate and fleet-footed technique Isbin does it proud. The Maryland Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Elizabeth Schulze has just the right feel for this music and the excellent engineering ensures both textural clarity and a perfect balance…Isbin is a natural storyteller and is in her element here, putting on a virtuoso display full of light, shade, and manual dexterity…an album that should please fans of Isbin and of contemporary guitar music in general.”
“Our Classical Album of the Week, Sharon Isbin’s Affinity, connects with Brubeck as well. The title track is a guitar concerto composed by Chris Brubeck. It has a slow movement that orchestrates his father’s song “Autumn.” Sharon says this tribute to Dave Brubeck, “forms the heart and soul of the piece, surrounded by all of these wonderful virtuosic Middle Eastern and jazz, and waltz-like elements…”
“If you are looking for music that will help you to rise above the troubles and tribulations of today’s ever-changing world, you need look no further than this new album from guitarist Sharon Isbin… it is truly sweetly spontaneous guitar magic…“Of Love and Longing”, by Richard Danielpour, is a quite lively piece that is totally intriguing… it will hold you spellbound for the entire 11:02 length… this song also displays Sharon’s unique talent for “playing the silent notes” to fullest advantage. As soon as I began the album, I knew that the title track/opener, “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra”, World Premier Composition by Chris Brubeck (Dave’s son) was my choice for personal favorite of the nine (long) pieces offered up… the orchestrals are woven in, around and through every note most attractively. This is THE BEST guitar composition I’ve heard (yet) in 2020!”
Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Strings for Peace: “In what is probably her most indie record ever, La Isbin strays about as far a field form the world of classical guitar as you can imagine with this set of specially composed ragas from an immanent raga family. With a light enough touch to make this not feel like a tour through an opium den, it’s a first class trip to the mysterious east where you just don’t know what’s beyond the next turn but you can’t stop pushing forward. Out of the ordinary but totally hot throughout.”
Affinity: “Isbin might be the pre-eminent classical guitarist trodding the boards today, but she shows just how much she has in common with rock stars by presenting a program of specially commissioned, debut works and doing with the ease of Petula Clark calling up Tony Hatch and saying “whatcha got for me?”. Right up there with the classics of the genre, give it a little time and it will be acknowledged as one of the classics of the genre. Great, killer playing throughout.”
“The sarod and the Spanish guitar are both plucked stringed instruments that have a “shared gypsy heritage that evolved many years ago”. But one is fretted and more suited for polyphonic harmonisation, while the other is unfretted and produces a more contiguous sound conducive to raga-based melodic exposition. How do you make them work together? Well, Isbin’s slides and melismatic filigree natural to the guitar create a virtual bridge. And when the sarod leads, Sharon chips in with chords and bass notes that flavour each spoonful of the melody with a fresh spice. The chordal backdrop hardly distorts the raag, instead playfully asking each note, ‘What if I dressed you in these ornaments today?’ The note seldom demurs.”