Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Crossing/ Ravi Chary

Indo-jazz  fusion/ EMI Music/ Rs 295

Rating: ****

OVER the past 15 years or so, I’ve seen sitar player Ravi Chary live in concert off and on, primarily in Indo-jazz fusion outings by percussionists Trilok Gurtu and Taufiq Qureshi. Abroad, of course, he’s played with well-known vocalists Angelique Kidjo and Salif Keita, drummer Paco Sery, bassist Kai Eckhardt and electronica giant Robert Miles.

Though one has heard contributions from him on many Trilok Gurtu albums and the Miles Davis multi-artiste tribute ‘Miles From India’, , it’s on the new release ‘Crossing’ that one gets a complete feel of his class. Giving him company is an A-class guest list that includes Indian keyboardists Louiz Banks and Harmeet Manseta, drummers Ranjit Barot, Sivamani and Gino Banks, percussionists Fazal Qureshi, Taufiq Qureshi and Sridhar Parthasarathy, guitarists Dhruv Ghanekar and Amit Heri, bassist Sheldon D’Silva, pianist Merlin D’Souza and saxophonist Rhys Sebastian.

The nine-track album has a good blend of Indian classical, jazz, rock and world music, with distinct influences of pioneering band Weather Report on some portions. The first two pieces ‘Yogi’ and ‘5.5’ have been arranged by Gino Banks, who’s also the album’s creative director. Good sitar passages played to a striking drum and tabla rhythm line.

‘Sadguru’, dedicated to Trilok Gurtu, has some brilliant keyboard stretches by Harmeet Manseta and crisp guitaring by Amit Heri. ‘Tree Of Souls’ is a Weather Report-styled masterpiece arranged by Sheldon, whereas Chary plays fabulously on the melodic ‘Synergy’, catchy ‘Divine Sphere’ and soulful ‘Myra’ ― the latter featuring an upright bass.

The album concludes with ‘Funk Jog’, a wonderfully-improvised piece featuring young saxophonist Rhys Sebastian, and ‘Twilight’, in which raag Puriya Dhanashree is given a jazz touch, with some smart contribution by drummer Ranjit Barot and pianist Louiz Banks.

Throughout the album, Chary’s playing is effortless and majestic. Among the lay-listeners, he may not be as well-known as the younger players Niladri Kumar and Anoushka Shankar, but as a fusion and world music player, he’s definitely making waves. ‘Crossing’ is clearly a class apart and a cross apart.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Classic


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