Last Thursday night I made my way across the Williamsburg Bridge to check out SoSaLa – a band lead by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. The show was interesting for a number of reasons the first of which I shall point out being that the band is comprised of a unique arrangement of instruments. Sohrab, the leader and front man of SoSaLa plays the saxophone accompanied by Michael Wimberly on drums and djembe, Dave Ross on guitar, John Pietaro on vibraphone and Bradely Madsen on trombone, and at times Jeremy Danneman on clarinet as well. As the preceding list indicates, SoSala, is without a bass player. Although this, as I understand is not a stylistic choice, and rather a matter of circumstance, it certainly pushes the band’s sound in a certain direction. To put it bluntly, SoSala is missing out on some low end frequencies. In lieu of no bass player, it appeared as though the trombone player, with the aid of some effects through a mic, was experimenting with some synth-like bass tones.
The band opened with a tune called Sohrab’s Shushtari – a lengthy two chord progression that conjures feelings of mystical nights in the desert or a stroll through a bazaar in Marrakesh. Honestly, the opener to me was so reminiscent of a Grateful Dead jam that I personally was whisked away to Egypt in 1977 when the Dead played the pyramids. I make this association somewhat apprehensively, nonetheless true to my heart, for I know that, despite my immense love for the Grateful Dead, it is not shared by many, especially these days, and even more so in this city.
Regardless, I make the comparison in a positive way – SoSaLa plays their songs with a clearly defined structure – yet are not afraid to explore the spaces between these structures. Improvisation, outside of a few narrowly defined musical spaces, has lost a lot of impetus and advocacy over the years. With SoSaLa, it is nice to know experimental music continues to find new avenues and outlets. Songs like A Beginning Is An Ending, and Look At Me featured Sohrab’s lyrics in a sort of spoken word, prose like form – that to me – yet again invited a comparison to the past – an era between the early 50’s and late 60’s that saw the roots of bohemian and libertine lifestyles and ways of thought, at least, within the U.S. To some degree SoSaLa evokes the passions and aesthetic that are most closely associated with hippies. For this writer – the elements of this association, again are positive ones.
SoSaLa’s music is not confined to 3 minute song structures nor does it shy away from exploring the potential and possibilities of one idea for great lengths. It is this style of music that often is cast off to the wayside because, to some degree of truth, it is hard to do well. SoSaLa has the patience to let ideas build slowly from quiet to loud, and again back to quiet. It is this meditative style of playing/improvising that we see and hear less and less yet is so therapeutic and grounding.
It would be just to say that SoSaLa, for taking a direction easily enough associated with older styles, is still a young band. A young band whose sound still has great potential to grow and develop into a sum far greater than its individual parts.