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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Surface to Air – Surface to Air (NCM East, 2012) ***½

By Monique Avakian

This is a friendly album, made even more inviting by this trio’s relaxed subtlety and strong crafting.  Combining a myriad of global influences into something sensible and evocative, Surface to Air brings you the world, and all from a very comfy armchair. Rohin Khemani (tabla and percussion), Jonti Siman (bass), and Jonathan Goldberger (guitar) engage in satisfying cross-pollination throughout the album, with each player’s strengths highlighted accordingly.

S2A’s compositions and improvisation reflect a deep and thoughtful simplicity. This encourages the listener to embrace each melody on multiple levels, including subconsciously. The overall rhythmic stance is not intimidating and allows the ear to roam without getting lost inside of superficial complexity. The vibe of the album feels whole and complete, and this band avoids the trap of creating yet another cut-and-paste multi-cultural listserv. This is no small feat in the modern day world, especially since S2A ambitiously garners inspiration from sources as varied as Iceland’s Sigur Rós (Heysátan), traditional song forms (Waltz for Celia) and Coen Brothers’ movie scores (Blood Simple).

Further testament to the band’s keen sense of balance can also be found in a deeper layer of fusion, where the worlds of music, poetry and philosophy unite. As the phrase “surface to air” implies, we are encouraged to think in metaphor. There is a refreshing sense of maturity in being able to keep the dark realities of the world in mind as we enter the oxygen-rich space of light these musicians have made for us.

This live version of Heysátan (Barbes, 6/2011) includes a valuable close-up of tabla technique.

© stef


Stef said...

Hi Monique,

Welcome on board of the Free Jazz Collective.