Ustad Ali Akbar Khan ‘Emperor of melody’ (ÉL/Cherry Red) 4/5

Born in 1922 in the Hindustan region of what is now Bangladesh, Ali Akbar Khan (the ‘Ustad’ denotes master musician) is a major exponent of the sarod instrument. Part of a long family musical dynasty, Khan studied the sarod with his father Allaudin Khan and later the tabla with his uncle Aftabuddin. By 1951 Ali Akbar Khan had founded his own college of music on Calcutta and many of his students, including his own son, Ashish, have attained international stature. Khan is also interestingly the brother-in-law of Ravi Shankar. This collection of eight ragas that date from the early 1960s includes two that are taken from the soundtrack to renowned Indian director Satyajit Ray’s film ‘The Goddess'(‘Davi’). The intimate and exquisite performances on this recording have been lovingly remastered and the sound is both clear and vibrant. Among the highlights, ‘Raga Bhairavi’ features a haunting theme while ‘Raga Chandranandon’ (‘Joy of the moon’) is a reflective piece in the first pace that gathers pace thereafter. Khan would go on to record duet albums with Vilayat Khan, who was a great admirer of Khan, in two periods during the 1950s and 1970s. Ali Akbar Khan became more widely known to an international audience as a result of his Indo-Jazz fusion collaboration with former Charles Mingus alumni and tenor saxophonist John Handy on the 1975 double album set on MPS records. Unfortunately due to the paucity of information on the original vinyl, there are no details of other musicians participating on the album. A film is shortly to be released on the life of the musician.

Tim Stenhouse