World Cafe

Shahin & Sepehr

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World Cafe Review

by Alex Henderson

Because the acoustic guitar duo of Shahin Shahida and Sepehr Haddad appeals to the smooth jazz/NAC market, some world music enthusiasts have been inclined to dismiss the Iranian/Persian musicians (now living in the United States) as lightweights. But they deserve a lot more credit than that. In terms of creativity, World Cafe and other instrumental Shahin & Sepehr discs are superior to most of the recordings that American NAC stations have played in the '90s and 2000s. Given the generally low standards that NAC radio has had for so long, perhaps that isn't saying much; some of the knee-jerk Kenny G. clones who find their way to the FM dial really are abysmal and downright embarrassing. But Shahin & Sepehr -- whose forte is an instrumental blend of Middle Eastern music, Spanish flamenco, smooth jazz, and new age -- are genuinely creative. Much of the original material on this CD bears that out, as do unlikely instrumental arrangements of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Eden Ahbez's haunting "Nature Boy" (a major hit for Nat King Cole in the late '40s). If you're going to embrace well-known songs, it's best to bring something different to the table; otherwise, what's the point? And to their credit, Shahin & Sepehr manage to put a fresh spin on both "Wild World" and "Nature Boy." There are also a few pedestrian, forgettable tracks; on occasion, Shahin & Sepehr end up sounding formulaic and contrived. But overall, World Cafe gives listeners a favorable impression of the acoustic guitarists. If World Cafe is part of smooth jazz, it's smooth jazz with a difference -- most of the time, anyway.

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