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Samir Zarif -][- STARTING POINT -(MP3)- [Mythology Records, 2010] – Reviewed


With his highly anticipated debut recording wrapped up the multi-faceted Houston, TX native Samir Zarif arrives with the adventurous “STARTING POINT.” Although this is my first encounter with his music, it wasn’t difficult to recognize the fact that Zarif’s unpredictable approach and style is slightly off the beaten path. Perhaps it’s his audacious attempt to carve out a niche for himself without losing his focus and establish his presence in jazz is quite refreshing.

Out of the box, Zarif’s steadfast approach to display not only great talent but reveal his unique character and skills to score fluid yet off measured sounds which intertwine seamlessly in the fabric of the global landscape. With that said, what we have here is the versatile artist who is undeniably focused and willing to valiantly explore the possibilities as he merges his distinguish voice into the fold with “STARTING POINT.”

At first glance, there’s no need to pretend “STARTING POINT” is definitely not your Father’s jazz. Depending on your personal taste, tracks like “Dancing in A Garden of Dead Roses” conveys the beauty of Zarif’s palpable yet fearless approach to experiment as a composer through the linage of his fertile beginnings in jazz. With this gem, he brilliantly collaborates with the gifted Maria Neckham on vocals. She lends her virtuous voice on the first of two vocal tracks to bridge the timeless elements of pop melodies. His message here speaks with definition to the curious minds of jazz enthusiast but should also appeal to the enthusiastic ears of his peers make’s this interesting brew worth repeated listens.

While growing up in a musical family, Samir was initially influenced to play violin by his gifted sister Tahirah Whittington a world-class cellist in her own right. Inspired at the age of seven by his mother Linda Zarif (choral director and classical pianist) Samir performed with a variety of choral groups which was one part of many components that help shape his musical future.

After listening to “Letter to the Brothers,” this piece appeared to be an interlude of Samir’s life as it entails his passion to reinvent the sonic details in which he arrived from artistically. Furthermore, his quest to sharpen his skills is quite impressive. While attending the University of New Orleans he played with some of the city’s finest musicians including the Jason Marsalis Quintet, Papa Ellis Marsalis, Aaron Neville, and trumpet great Nicholas Payton.

The intuitive qualities of “Precocious Nation and The Old Man’s Box” develop generously from within the body of this audibly evocative recording. They appear and qualify as notable pieces to this enigmatic offering by Zarif. As each note awakens, the lyrically challenging and emotionally charged melodies ultimately transcend ordinary soundscapes.

Indeed, after a few listens it was obvious that Samir Zarif is without a doubt an agent of change. “Fear & Deception” is a prime example. The song wades its way through the deep end of the pool to render expressions of Hip-hop entangled to the enunciated voicing’s of Zarif’s improvised playing.

Remarkably as a recipient of solid teachings his compositional canvas confirms why it’s imperative for artist to stand firm with integrity, principle and purpose as they attempt to evolve as a composer/musician.

I’m encouraged to see artist of Zarif’s caliber compose, play, arrange and record innovative/creative music without faltering from their vision. Kudos, to this virtuoso and anointed musician for simply doing his thing with “Starting Point.” it’s enthralling to hear Samir Zarif play with his scintillating voice especially during these indecisive times when the future for many of us is painted with uncertainty. –Rob Young | Reviewer