From scat-singing to the sitar

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews Music - John Lewis

Al­bum My East Is Your West

Jazz mu­si­cians have been bor­row­ing from In­dian mu­sic for more than half a cen­tury. Some­times it was just the tex­tures – the drones of the tan­pura, the ex­otic pat­ter of tablas, the zing of a sitar. Some­times it was deeper – John Coltrane in­cor­po­rat­ing Hin­dus­tani ra­gas into modal jazz, or Trilok Gurtu mix­ing kon­nakol vo­cal per­cus­sion with scat-singing. It is a his­tory ex­plored by the US-born, In­dia-raised, Lon­don-based per­cus­sion­ist Sarathy Kor­war on his lat­est al­bum. Recorded live at the Church of Sound in Clap­ton ear­lier this year, it re­vis­its many of the fu­sions of the last half cen­tury – there are pieces by Pharoah San­ders, Alice Coltrane, Don Cherry, Joe Hen­der­son, John McLaugh­lin, Ab­dul­lah Ibrahim, the Goan gui­tarist Aman­cio D’Silva and even Ravi Shankar.

Kor­war’s lineup – mix­ing a jazz quin­tet and five In­dian mu­si­cians – echoes the “dou­ble quin­tet” adopted by Ja­maican sax­o­phon­ist Joe Har­riott and An­glo-In­dian vi­o­lin­ist John Mayer on their mid-60s Indo Jazz Fu­sions al­bums. But, where Mayer and Har­riott en­gaged in a jerky, slightly awk­ward sound­clash, Kor­war’s fu­sion is seam­less.

The clas­si­cal In­dian mu­si­cians here – such as flautist Aravin­d­han Ba­heerathan and per­cus­sion­ist BC Man­ju­nath – have one foot in the world of jazz im­pro­vi­sa­tion, while the jazz play­ers clearly un­der­stand In­dian mu­sic: Jesse Ban­nis­ter, for in­stance, repli­cates on a tenor sax the slurred notes and trills we as­so­ciate with a sitar. “Upaj” is the Hindi word for im­promptu and these are lengthy im­pro­vi­sa­tions: a re­mark­able 15-minute take on

Joe Hen­der­son’s Earth starts with a gor­geous, sigh­ing vo­cal im­pro­vi­sa­tion from Aditya Prakash and peaks with a gar­ru­lous bari­tone sax wigout over a sludge funk beat. The lan­guor is part of the ap­peal. This month’s other picks An in­stru­men­tal al­bum from indie singer-song­writer

Ed Harcourt doesn’t sound like the most com­pelling of pitches, but Be­yond the End (to be re­leased on 23 Novem­ber) is a series of sim­ple, repet­i­tive and quite pretty pi­ano melodies, some­times sweet­ened with strings. It will doubt­less find Harcourt along­side Nils Frahm and Max Richter in one of those “re­lax­ing pi­ano” playlists on Spo­tify; not a fate likely to be­fall

Ir­min Sch­midt’s al­bum of spon­ta­neous im­pro­vi­sa­tions 5 Klavier­stücke (to be re­leased on 16 Novem­ber). For Sch­midt, the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of krautrock­ers Can, the pi­ano is a tex­tu­ral sound source for elic­it­ing ter­ror, be it us­ing dis­cor­dant voic­ings, plucked strings, game­lan-style har­mon­ics from banged sound­boards or dra­matic uses of si­lence.

Artist Sarathy Kor­war & Upaj Col­lec­tive

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