American cellist Maya Beiser, a founding member of Bang On A Can, has devoted her considerable gifts -- a warm, gorgeous tone; a flawless technique; and above all, an intense soulfulness -- to the contemporary repertory, and she is responsible for the creation of significant new works for her instrument. Provenance is a tribute to what Beiser describes as the Golden age of Spain, the 9th to the 15th centuries, when the peaceful coexistence of Islam, Jewish, and Christian cultures engendered an especially rich musical tradition. The album includes four works written for Beiser, several of them scored for cello and a variety of traditional instruments as well as voice, and an arrangement by Evan Ziporyn of the Led Zeppelin tune "Kashmir," by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Among the composers are Kayhan Kalhor (Iran), Djivan Gasparian (Armenia), Tamar Muskal (Israel), and Douglas J. Cuomo (U.S.). All of these pieces showcase the committed expressivity and unabashed emotionalism of Beiser's playing. The works create an aura of exoticism (in the use of modes and folk instruments associated with the Near and Middle East), have a solo line that sounds freely improvisatory, and a tone that is most often passionately melancholy. Several tracks feature Beiser alone, but with extensive overdubbing; the Gasparian uses mostly accompanimental drones, and in the Cuomo, contrapuntal lines create a delicate web of intricately shifting textures. The Kalhor and Muskal are evocative, colorful, piercingly emotional ensemble pieces that sound both ancient and freshly imagined. Ziporyn's Led Zeppelin arrangement uses rock drumming, overdubbing, and processed sound that reflect its musical origins, but it has a distinctive new flavor. Innova's immaculate, vibrant sound is impressively present. The CD should be of interest to fans of virtuoso cello playing, new music, and the fusion of Western classical and world music traditions.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins