Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa had already integrated Indian melodies and rhythmic patterns in his jazz records, but on this album he takes the concept into full-fledged fusion, creating a band with both American and Indian musicians, to create a wonderful mix of really integrated genres and stellar musicianship. The ensemble consists of Rez Abbasi on guitar and sitar, A. Kanya Kumari on violin, Kadri Gopalnath als on alto saxophone, Carlo DeRosa on acoustic bass, Poovalur Sriji on mridangam and Royal Hartigan on drums. The compositions are structurally extremely strong, full of rhythm changes, long melodic lines, counterpoint by the other sax or the violin, ... There are moments when the early Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind, especially because of the speed of some unison phrases, as the combination of guitar and violin (as on "Ganesha" which has some chord changes which are typical Mahavishnu), at other times the approach is less fusion and more traditional tribal, as on "Snake", which evolves into an almost hypnotic dance with the soloists twirling around each other in a maddening tempo, sometimes it's meditative, closer to classical Indian music, especially on the "alap" tracks, on which each time one instrument plays solo, with "Kadri-Alap" and "Kanya-Alap" as the highlights. At times the melodies verge on the border of sentimentalism, but that is luckily more exception than the rule. And the album ends with "Convergence", a wonderful mix of genres, themes, tempi and instrumentation, with each of the musicians getting ample time for soloing, ending with a wonderful improvised sax dialogue between Gopalnath and Mahanthappa, and well, yes, actually "converging" into unison at the end (sorry to have revealed that surprise!).
I am not usually a fusion fan (sorry, Rudresh, to use the "F-word" again), but this album is absolutely excellent. All musicians are excellent, the compositions are excellent, with variation and depth. Mahanthappa's sax-playing is a pleasure to hear, and his idea to join forces with Kadri Gopalnath was brilliant. The former is without a doubt one of the most creative and lyrical sax-players in modern jazz, and the latter plays sax bending the notes, creating that gliding effect between notes that is so typical of the Indian violin and sitar. I'm not sure how he does that, but it sounds great. If you like world jazz, this one is not to be missed.
Listen and download from Pi Recordings.
Listen and watch this clip with some music from the album with an interview of Mahanthappa.