American-Iranian sax player feature: Hafez Modirzadeh – creating a different kind of Jazz

Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Being myself an Iranian I’ve been always looking for Iranian or American-Iranian musicians living and playing here in the States. Iranian musicians who either don’t play the LA type of “Iranian Pop music” nor Persian classical music, but a kind of music which is contemporary and original. One of them I found out is the Iranian-American composer, saxophonist, theorist and educator Hafez Modirzadeh who lives and teaches  in LA. Unfortunately since coming to New York I haven’t have the chance to meet him. In fact I missed two of his New York concerts in the last two years due to my own music commitments.

The first time I heard of Modirzadeh was about ten years ago, when I still lived in Tokyo. A Japanese jazz journalist surprised me with a cassette of Modirzadeh’s music which sounded “oriental jazzy,” very cool and original.  I was impressed by what I heard. At that time I didn’t understand what he was playing. Today I know: he played “chromodal” which is a a cross-cultural musical concept and music style, developed from his own American jazz and Iranian dastgah heritages.

But I liked his music and the tone of his tenor sax. Last spring with the release of my CD SoSaLa Nu World Trash I used this occasion to mail Modirzadeh and introduce myself. He responded to my mail shortly writing:

“Salaam Sohrabe Jaan,

And a Happy Nowruz to you as well!

Thank you for sharing your music with the world. I went to your website and watched your clip with Ornette —  he is full of love as always — in a way, your wish has come true with YouTube, for you have now played in public with Ornette, since both your sounds are together on the internet now for the world to hear, which is the power of technology today.

I have had many personal experiences at Ornette’s home, like you, and listen very carefully to what he says as well.  I noticed he asked you about keys, and then mentioned that he sets up a key to get rid of it (or something to that effect, no?).  I think it is a good idea: to maneuver around all the keys in order to break through their boundaries — without knowing our boundaries, what are we aware of breaking through? I think of your announcement at your performance, speaking of participating in the protests (ahh, there’s a “key” you speak of breaking through!).

Once, Ornette told me that I didn’t need anyone to “carry” me; later, I got it, that he is telling us that we have nothing to prove, no need to “go public” with our knowing Ornette, that like him, we play our soul just as beautifully and eternally whether for kings or clouds.

You have a beautiful soul, Sohrabe, and I wish you the best along your journey, and perhaps one day we will meet.

This mail made me very happy and made me want to meet him a.s.a.p..

Here are two videos of a concert I missed recently.



Other interesting videos which might be helpful for you to get an understanding of Modirzadeh’s music and its concept