By the Tears of Scheherazade
Somewhere out on the plain of Babylon is a magnificent place, a paradise, as foretold in many ancient texts. It is a place of exquisite beauty with lush gardens, roaring waterfalls and such unlimited bounty so as not one of the senses may want. The music that is playing in the background is that of Paul Avgerinos on his latest album, Garden of Delight. The combination of New Age themes and Middle Eastern elements is a pleasure for the ears and manna for the spirit. The music invited me to sit and enjoy eleven tracks that massaged my soul and allowed me to relax, refresh and daydream to my heart’s content.
Instrumentation on the recording is as lush and varied as the gardens about which they sing. Paul plays 12-string, bass and keyboards while his well-known collaborator Kevin Braheny (Fortune) plays his electronic wind instrument. Also joining Paul is world-renowned flautist Omar Faruk Tekbilek. Tekbilek’s talents came to light in the early 70′s as a session musician in Turkey, but he quickly gained fame and a following. He is now known for his contemporary slant on Old World music. The seraphic voices on the album belong to Christine Yandell and Malika Zarra. Robin Khemani provides percussion, Rachid Halihal plays violin, and Brahim Fribgane plays the oud and together they make quite a celestial sound.
“Rose of Heaven” reminded me of one of those fabulous opening numbers that Loreena McKennitt is so famous for, but this is more than just an intro. It is the story of the beautiful rose whose open hands lift skyward in praise. There is great guitar in Rose of Heaven and a soothing tempo that I found quite calming. “Garden of Delight” put the rhythm of the swaying dessert palms and the perfume of a thousand flowers into my mind. There is respite from the hot sun and the splashing of cool water to quench my thirst. If it were not for the accompaniment of the modern instruments, I might be fooled into thinking that I was a visitor to another time. “Jasmine” takes advantage of the summer night and the sultry shadows of the moon glow. The dulcet female voices vie with the flute to get my attention and both have equal power. The tempo on this tune is hypnotic as the music dances around me. I cannot help but sway in and out of my own little fantasy. “Variations of the Tree of Life” appear in every major religion on the planet dating back from the Garden of Eden to the “World Trees” of Mesoamerica. The superlative track on the album is also called Tree of Life. Haunting flute, whispered voices, and graceful washes of sound and water contributes elegantly the song. There is an ebb and flow to the tune that reminds me of breathing. It is inescapably relaxing. The last cut “Queen of the Night” has all the instrumentation in it and soft voices as well. Along with the gentle guitar, the flute summoned me like a warm fire on a cold dessert night or perhaps like the open arms of a dark-eyed beauty. Beauty however can be deceiving. The music leaves no doubt; for the queen commands me and I must obey.
That last Paul Avgerinos album I reviewed called Gnosis had a more spiritual slant. Garden of Delight has an earthy, organic sense that is soothing in many different ways. For the decidedly pleasurable combination of New Age, World and even ethnic genres, I highly recommend this album. The music conjures up everything that man has dreamed of when it comes to paradise. Can heaven be far behind?