Joel Harrison and Anupam Shobhakar ‘Multiplicity’ (Whirlwind) 3/5

Joel-Harrison-Anupam-ShobhakarIndo-jazz has now become an established and respected sub-genre, but Americana folk fused with Indian classical and jazz is a new concept to this writer. However, it is precisely this mixture of sounds that has been attempted on this ambitious release by American electric, steel and acoustic guitarist Joel Harrison and Indian sarode* player Anupam Shobhakar. Jazz support comes in the tasty alto saxophone of David Binney who is creating something of a stir on the New York scene who contributes on two numbers. The fusion works best on ‘Spoonful’ where American blues (steel guitar and Hammond organ) and Indian classical blend together beautifully and possibly a larger project devoted to this harmonious blending of styles should be a future priority. Ry Cooder is evoked on ‘Devil Mountain’ and it is certainly true that blues presents the ideal counterfoil to Indian percussion. Elsewhere there are shades of Shakti with virtuosity to the fore on ‘Madhuvanti’ which is a fast-paced number with sarode* and saxophone in unison. If the balance between the disparate elements is not always as well defined as it could be, the music created will surely weave into a more cohesive whole with time. To even attempt such inter-cultural exchanges is praiseworthy and this is anything but formulaic in approach.

Joel Harrison was inspired to examine how Americana could combine with Indian classical after discovering the pioneering albums of the Nonesuch label from the 1960s and 1970s and among his musical heroes he counts Ali Akbar Khan, Baba Allaudin Khan and Ravi Shankar.

Tim Stenhouse