Friday, 22 February 2019

Baiju Bhatt - Eastern Sonata, album review

Beautiful Jazz

This is a beautiful album, especially the closing track Song for Little Shai: because it is, but also because it reminds me most of an album that has such an important place in my nostalgic musical recollection/likes which is the Music for Pleasure LP Curried Jazz by The Indo-British Ensemble, so named for that production, and released in 1969 when I was enjoying psychedelia and jazz, as well as, with like-minded listeners, Indian music exemplified by the sitar and primarily Ravi Shankar.  

Shankar had played the Monterey Pop Festival, and George Harrison had met him in 1966 and was one of the first ‘pop’ artists to introduce Indian music/sitar into western notice and recognition. Curried Jazz was probably one of the first well-known fusions of Eastern/Western music and I think was a genuine celebration of influence rather than a commercial enterprise, the likes of Kenny Wheeler involved on flugelhorn and the inclusion of Dev Kumar on sitar, Chris Karan on Tabla, and Siara Kumar on Tambura. It was a gentle amalgam of these styles and pretty listening.

We have come a long way since this ‘English’ appropriation, and ‘world’ music [for want of a better term?] is popular and known for its indigenous sound rather than any cross-referencing. I’ve made that quite simplistic, I’m sure, but I am no expert as a listener, though have my many likes, and I don’t want to get embroiled in exploration of access and production where I am again no expert.

I do want to celebrate this album by the violinist Baiju Bhatt, and others, which is an explicit fusion of east and west [thus the echo of Curried Jazz] and is a wonderful listen for that. The fact that guitarist Nguyên Lê* is also involved further demonstrates the prominence of global musicianship/performance/recording that is readily available and successful today.

Other musicians on the album are Prabhu Edouard on tablas and percussions, Valentin Conus on saxophones, Mark Priore on keyboards, Blaise Hommage on bass and Cyril Regamey on drums. These are joined by oudist player Amine M’Raihi and the flute playing of Jay Ghandi.

I’m not going to describe tracks having offered a touchstone in the opening paragraph. The title track is gorgeous – I will add that one further specific reference [BB on violin] – and so much else if simply full of energy and the virtuoso playing of the musicians.

[*] Listening currently to his latest Streams.

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