Nima Collective

Sings of Strange Delight

2011 CD, specially priced, $12, now available.
review by Greg Howard

Nima Rezai - Grand Stick, AcouStick, santour, Stick-controlled synths, electronic drums
Jesus Florido - violin, viper violin
Dan Heflin - flute, soprano and tenor sax
Christopher Garcia - drums, shaker, clay drum, tabla, djembe, kanjira, frame drum
Adam Darling - electric guitar, classical guitar, electronic drums
Delton Davis - cajon, shaker, triangle, chimes, bongos, vibes, Darabuka
Brad Ranola - Pocket pandiero, ribbon crash, surdo, talking drums
Houman Pourmehdi - Daf, Udu, bass drum
Harry Scorzo - violin
Milad Derakhshani - Taar
John Zeretzke - kamancheb
Michael Alvarez - cello
Kevin Goode- piano
Randin Graves - koto, guitar, ebow, didjeridu

Nima Collective is the new project from Bay Area Stickist and composer Nima Rezai.

Nima has expanded his Merge quartet into a full-blown world music orchestral ensemble, supplementing the core sound of Stick, drums, violin and saxophone with Persian string instruments (taar, santour and kamanche) koto, didjeridoo, and unusual percussion instruments like the Udu drum and darabuka, as well as synthesizers and electronic drums. With such a broad array of sound and musical traditions to draw from Nima collective spans not only the globe but also the centuries.

The orchestrations are deep.  Each new listen reveals new sonic layers sounds.  On some tracks, like the opener "Division",  the mood shifts dramatically even with  steady pulse — from mystical soundscape to ancient, percussion groove, through a contemporary World Beat melody and then into an "electronica" interlude, all in the space of five minutes.

Their version of what is arguably the first "world music" pop recording, the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood", takes its time,  languidly laying the familiar melody over an "orchestra" of exotic acoustic and electric strings.  Nima sounds out his roots on "Persia", with a majestic melody and an epic cadence that sounds like it could be have been played in Cyrus's court.  The AcouStick prototype even makes a brief and powerful appearance at the center of "Memory On", which recalls John McLaughlin's foray into Indian music with the band Shakti.  


Nima is a generous band-leader, letting violinist Jesus Florido and saxaphonist Dan Heflin assume many of the melodic and solo roles, but when it's his turn, as on the original "Three Steps", he lets loose with a dramatic and daring lead.  He's just as adept at weaving his clean ACTV-2 equipped Grand Stick's tone among the edgier acoustic instruments, or laying down a delicious synth pad under his two colorful soloists.

There's a fresh interpretation of Sting's "Fragile" with Florido getting down into the deepest range of the violin for some soulful soloing.  Fans of Bob Culbertson will recognize "Float", a tune he co-wrote with Rezai and Heflin, and there are some really catchy original melodies as well.  The climactic Hendrix "Little Wing/Machine Gun" medley is perfectly answered by the coda track, "Take Me Down", with it's casual elecronic backing track and moving on melody.

Each track highlights the Collective's skill as arrangers, as well as Nima and Toby Rosen's excellent production.  And while each cut is very complete in its own right, taken as a whole Songs of Strange Delight is really a pleasure to listen to, again and again. 

Nima & Merge

Separate Worlds 2005 CD $15.

This new quartet truly "merges" many musical elements: Middle Eastern melodies, harmonies and rhythms, and Western fusion and progressive rock arrangements, and even some Latin and Celtic themes. Stickist Nima Rezai's compositions explore all of these influences and his playing recalls traditional instruments from these genres, while paying homage to his teacher, Bob Culbertson, whose playing is frequently echoed in Rezai's own technique and phrasing. A high-energy ensemble of drums (Brad Ranola), sax (Dan Heflin), guitar (Randy Graves) and Nima's Grand Stick, Merge delivers tightly performed, highly developed compositions, with the added sonic dimension of guest performances on flute, violin, saz, tabla and many other nonwestern instruments. Their unique sound is diverse and very accessible, with an emphasis on the tunes and arrangements first, placed in lush production setting and peppered with some fiery solos. Nima's EMG and MIDI-equipped Grand Stick covers a lot of ground, but there's plenty of room for his bandmates to explore. This is a Stick record that is all about integrating the instrument into a band setting, with The Stick serving Rezai as a compositional and performance focus simultaneously.