Hafez Modirzadeh doesn't ignore dualities like East and West, ancient and modern, improvisation and composition. Rather, the San Jose saxophonist dissolves and transcends seeming opposites, creating wondrously seamless musical settings.
Turning classical Persian scales into fertile fodder for jazz invention, his latest album, "Post-Chromodal Out!," builds on his widely acclaimed 2010 collaboration with Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, "Radif Suite" (both on Pi Recordings). The new CD opens mid-conversation with "Weft Facets," the second half of an extended suite introduced on the earlier recording, though he and ElSaffar are joined by a different rhythm section.
Featuring pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Royal Hartigan, the album captures the two horn players engaged in thoughtful, occasionally roiling dialogue across 13 movements and four interludes. Already on treacherous harmonic territory while exploring the radif, or brief melodic pieces linked to Persian classical modes, Iyer provides the glue that holds the suite together while navigating a retuned piano.
"Warp and weft refer to the inspiration of carpet weaving," says Modirzadeh, 50. "On 'Weft Suite,' the piano has 12 to 14 keys retuned, so it's a complete discovery for Vijay, a new instrument. The modes are no longer Persian. They've been re-contextualized."
Modirzadeh celebrates the release of "Post-Chromodal Out!" on Wednesday at Kuumbwa Jazz
The Rochester, N.Y.-raised pianist was pursuing a doctorate in physics at UC Berkeley in the mid-1990s when he first met the Iranian-American saxophonist. They were both associated with Asian Improv, a collective devoted to advancing adventurous Asian-American jazz artists, and Iyer vividly remembers attending the concert marking the release of Modirzadeh's debut album, 1993's "In Chromodal Discourse" (Asian Improv).
"Hafez just blew my mind completely," says Iyer, 40. "I was amazed and inspired and terrified by what he was achieving. The music was so bold and beautiful and had such rigor and autonomy. Then I'd see him crop up in interesting places, with E.W. Wainwright or Peter Apfelbaum or Ann Dyer, and every time he would bring something to the table no one else had, just expand the situation in such an inspiring way."
The regard is mutual. Iyer's rigorous development of a new rhythmic vocabulary obliquely inspired by classical Indian cycles has caught the attention of many jazz musicians. Rather than focus solely on his own body of music, Modirzadeh also plans to explore some of Iyer's music, an undertaking he's preparing for by heading out of town for the bulk of a week.
"I've learned several pieces of his, and I'm shedding his music as hard as I can," says Modirzadeh, using jazz vernacular for intensive, single-minded rehearsal. "He's got this metrical dicing, and I want to get inside the essence of the rhythmic part of it."
Wednesday's collaboration is made possible by San Francisco Performances, the arts-presenting organization that tapped Iyer for a three-year artist-in-residence position last year. As a player who prepares his own music in painstaking detail, Iyer faces uncharted territory every time he takes the stage with Modirzadeh.
"I don't get to practice on these differently tuned instruments," he says. "Each time I do these things, it's trial by fire. Hafez keeps changing things, moving the goal posts on me. He's always creating. That's who he is. Each event has been a discovery.
"What you're hearing is that process, me finding things, not just presenting things that I've found."
With Vijay Iyer
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz
Tickets: $20-$23, 831-427-2227, www.kuumbwajazz.org