There’s this common ground where styles and genres of music - and of whole periods of history, in fact - converge and overlap, where it’s hard to hear where one "ends" and the other "begins." That’s where Portals of Grace
lives and thrives, a circular slice of tenderly mysterious and enduring beauty. Vocalist Azam Ali performs a variety of Judeo-Spanish and Arabic songs with medieval songs from France, Galicia, Brittany and Sweden - and without ever sounding dry or pedantic she demonstrates how much common ground these styles have. Ali sings in a clear, resolute, evocative alto that is pure, keen and haunting as the first truly chilling winds of autumn, heard both solo and as a "choir" via multi-tracking. Though her voice is center stage, she gets sterling, terse accompaniment (never is heard a nonessential note) from her fellow musicians, especially the supple and subtle oud playing of Naser Musa and the profound sonority of Chris Bleth’s duduk (a Central Asian oboe-like wind instrument). Definitely not first-disc-of-the-day music, but rather for contemplative nights when it’s cool and starless.... or a night that feels
as if it should be.
So, if Jan Garbarek, Dead Can Dance, Anouar Brahem, Ensemble Alcatraz and/or Sainkho Namchylak (solo or w/ Ned Rothenberg) are like food and drink to you, you GOTTA step within these particular Portals