All posts by ukvibe

Harish Raghavan ‘Calls For Action’ 2LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

Since arriving to New York from Illinois by way of California in 2007, double bassist Harish Raghavan has recorded and toured with numerous artists including Ambrose Akinmusire, Kurt Elling, Taylor Eigsti, Vijay Iyer, Charles Lloyd, Walter Smith, Logan Richardson and Eric Harland. “Calls For Action” is his debut album as leader, and this impressive quintet recording is full of spark, vibrancy and originality. Over recent years Raghavan has seized the opportunity to work with an influx of bright new stars, resulting in this markedly lithe quintet with alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Micah Thomas, vibraphonist Joel Ross and drummer Kweku Sumbry.
“I had been wanting to record for quite some time when I met the guys through working on Joel Ross’ album”, explains Raghavan. “They had such a great rapport with each other and myself, it felt like a match. Then we had the luxury of playing together for a year to develop and build the repertoire.” There certainly seems to be a natural connection between all five musicians, with a shared collaborative spirit helping to make the bassist’s original compositions shine.

There’s an earthiness, a grounded feel to this recording that I really like. From the solo bass of the opening intro, it’s like a deep-rooted century-old tree taking sustenance from the earth, from the water and soil beneath, before waking to the world and stretching out its branches in a renewed spritely fashion. Like jazz itself, its history and traditions are still respected and totally genuine, but the new life that reaches out gives something new, something reinvented, with charisma, strength and purpose. “Newe” is just like that, showing the listener what this band have to offer, introducing us to who they are and what they’re about. There’s an almost impatient feel to this tune, as if the musicians themselves can’t wait to get up and at it, driving forward with a clear sense of purpose. If this tune feels a little over-eager, then the opposite can be said of the stunning “Los Angeles”. This is a wonderful piece of music. Unhurried, cool, beautiful and compelling. It reminds me a little of something you’d hear from Mark Guiliana’s Jazz Quartet. It took me a while to get to the rest of the album due to listening to this track so many times. The music is highly evocative throughout, with spellbinding melodies and intuitive soloing featuring heavily on tunes such as “Sangeet”, with its refreshing flair and uncompromising spirit. “I’ll go and I’ll come back” has an endearing simplicity to it that pulls the listener in, the piano and vibes picking up the melodies and running with them like long lost friends reunited. Raghavan’s driving bass leads us into the adventurous “Seaminer”, a breathless piece showcasing the quintet’s undoubted skill in all its glory. There’s some soloing of epic proportions here, especially from the dynamic Immanuel Wilkins. “The Meters” lets us relax a little, it’s subtleties and gentle nuances enriched by an underlying edginess that works its way into much of Raghavan’s music. “4560 Roundtop” is a playful, energetic piece that gives way to the quirkier “Shift”. This tune has that late-night jazz club vibe that benefits from searing bass lines and accomplished riffs and motifs, with the band taking no prisoners. I love the slightly uneasy feel of “Lunatico”, its dark, strangely compelling melody benefitting from a depth of soul and sincerity that the band pick up on as the tune develops. “Junior” allows drummer Kweku Sumbry to shine, but it’s the way the bass, drums, vibes and sax all combine so well that is especially impressive. The title track captures the imagination, its full-steam-ahead pace making the change mid-stream all the more impressive. Raghavan’s walking bass-line is greeted by some explosive drumming on “Seven”, before the ever-impressive piano of Micah Thomas and sax of Immanuel Wilkins take the centre stage. And as if we needed any extra icing on the cake, Joel Ross’s vibes hit the sweet spot once more. The album closes as it opened, with Raghavan’s endearingly woody bass walking us down a slowly winding path, taking in the surroundings with time once more to breathe.

“Calls For Action” is a strong, powerful debut from Raghavan. The quintet fully explore the bassist’s compositions with style, exuberance and panache. Original and daring, there’s so much promise from this quintet that one can only hope it’s not too long before they get back into the studio to build on what they’ve started.

Mike Gates

Gary Bias ‘East 101’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 3/5

Nimbus and Nimbus West are pretty much the same label operated by Tom Albach out of the West Coast USA. Many of the current crop of spiritualized jazz musicians on the West Coast still owe a debt of gratitude to the label and the influences it brought to the overall scene.
As with many Nimbus recordings of the period, this 5 track album by saxophonist Gary Bias has been long out of print and this much-needed re-mastered reissue comes at a good time.

The first track on the album is the standout cut ‘Asiki’ which is a laidback but classy affair featuring Bias on soprano accompanied by label stablemate Rickey Kelly on the vibes and featuring a stunning solo by David Tillman (of Potter and Tillman fame) on piano. The production on this track alone just sounds so classy.
‘Dear Violet’ – a song Bias dedicated to his late grandmother feels very spiritual in its approach with just saxophone and bass in the style of Pharoah Sanders but you feel the track ends after over 6 mins promising more. You always feel like you were waiting for the song to get going but it never really does.
‘Arthur’s Vamp’ with its memorable melodic bass hook rounds the first side out. Bias has a similar tone to Arthur Blythe (whom the track is dedicated to) when he picks up the alto. The band all put in good solos here and it’s a contrast to how the album’s initial chilled classy starter.
The title track kicks off side 2 and is a jaunty, boppy affair that ebbs and flows in which the band take their respective solos. And we end with the light but jazzy ‘As Children Play’ where we hear the sax man playing a little flute. It is a playground type theme set up in a jazz waltz signature highlighting David Tillman’s prowess on the piano once more, Bias himself on soprano saxophone and a solo by bass man Roberto Miranda.

Whilst East 101 isn’t Nimbus records most rare and sort after album, it is still worth having in your collection – if not for the ‘Asiki’ track alone.

Sammy Goulbourne

Gülistan ‘Oriental Groove’ LP (Hot Mule) 4/5

Subtitled “Jazz meets the Orient”, this new reissue was the first and only album from Viennese fusioneers, Gülistan, originally released in 1986. The group, all Austrians on this album apart from a newly arrived Kurdish immigrant, was the brainchild of flautist/saxophonist Josef Olt, who nurtured an interest of things Middle Eastern during a holiday in Turkey. A project to bring Balkan and Turkish musical styles to the band’s electric jazz influences, the songs are mainly derived from traditional tunes though there are a couple of originals. The self-financed album was mainly sold at their gigs and not long afterwards the group disbanded, apparently acrimoniously.

“Nazmiye”, begins with a salvo of percussion, the flute and bass take the melody to the middle section, which is essentially 1970s fusion tied to the subtle Middle Eastern rhythm and the ever-present darbuka. The flute and violin are the dominant instruments on all the tracks here and there’s a pleasing light tone when they’re in harmony. On the slower “Plajda – On The Beach”, the Jaco-esque fretless bass is a reminder of the core band style. An original tune, “Deli Horoz – The Crazy Cock” locks into a busy repetitive rhythm for solos incorporating exotic scales. “Ahtarma Meni – Don’t Search Me”, mixes jaunty flute/violin melody lines with cascading keyboard chords which adds a slight Latin edge. The balladic “Ayrılık – Separation” follows which is a little too easy listening for me. Slippy fretless bass introduces “Cano, Cano – Darling, Darling”, the epic highpoint of the album and the most seamless mix of East and West. The closer, “Kervan – Caravan” is probably more recognisable to Western ears as “Misirlou”, particularly the deranged surf rock version by Dick Dale. Obviously, it doesn’t hit the energy levels of that but is a pleasant floaty conclusion to the set.

The album can still be seen as an exciting experiment. The tunes have the glitter of Middle Eastern glamour and underneath there’s substantial groovy jazz fusion, well performed by proficient musicians with a vision. Obviously, these days, the concept of co-opting jazz and ethnic music is not so unusual and the music is very much of its time but that’s fine with me. With thirty-odd years hindsight, there is a slight novelty feel to this album especially apparent with the original packaging and the odd fez here and there! However, it is successful as the simple clean folky melodies and the pyrotechnics of jazz fusion do actually sit very well together. It is also evocative of the time when less esoteric listeners in the West began to dip their toe into what became known as World Music.

The album is well worthy of the Hot Mule reissue and the new liner notes are excellent, recording the reunion of the band members and letting them tell their story. I especially enjoyed the tale of the promotional scam on a local radio station involving an imaginary Turkish truck driver!

Kevin Ward

Petter Eldh presents ‘Koma Saxo’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 5/5

Helsinki’s We Jazz Records has never had a problem in boasting stunning jazz releases, but their output this year alone has really helped to solidify their status as one of Europe’s premier labels: drummer Terkel Nørgaard’s ‘With Ralph Alessi’ project from earlier this year scored highly as an excellent release, as did saxophonist Timo Lassy & drummer Teppo Mäkynen’s self-titled collaborative album.

The new project from Petter Eldh, ‘Koma Saxo’, sees the Swedish bassist assemble a wonderful five-piece comprised of long-time friends and collaborators, each incredible artists in their own right, to further carry the flag for We Jazz Records in 2019.

Credited as the project’s bassist and producer, as well as handling supplementary recording and mixing duties, Eldh’s lengthy career has seen him play and perform with groups as varied as the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, SoulFanatix and Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity, as well as many of the musicians featured throughout ‘Koma Saxo’. The combination of Eldh’s bass and drums by Christian Lillinger (Anton Eger, Burkhard Schlothauer) provide the backbone of the music for frontline saxophonists Mikko Innanen (Andrew Barker, Daniel Sommer), Jonas Kullhammar (La La Lars, Ola Englund) and Otis Sandsjö (Lucia Cadotsch, August Rosenbaum).

The roots of the music here stem from the group’s live performance at the We Jazz Festival, 3rd December 2018, before the recordings were later revisited by Eldh with the intention of shaping the music into the versions presented on the album. The end-result reveals the inspired and innovative vision that Eldh brought to the project, and maybe it was his love of 90s hip-hop and groups like A Tribe Called Quest that served as inspiration to some capacity, but many of ‘Koma Saxo’s compositions you could almost envisage as being the products of hip-hop producers like Madlib or DJ Premier – or at the very least these are tracks they’d salivate at the thought of getting their hands on.

‘Ostron Koma’, ‘Cyclops Dance’ and ‘Fanfarum For Komarum II’ are otherworldly in their approach and thrilling endorsements for everything contemporary jazz can and should be: it’s the kind of album that makes you ask “Is this music even jazz?” before you immediately settle on the realisation, “It couldn’t be anything BUT jazz!”

The We Jazz 2019 Festival kicks off this December with Koma Saxo on stage for two dates.

Imran Mirza

Hugo Heredia ‘Mananita Pampera’ LP (Jazz Room) 4/5

Paul Murphy’s first release on his Jazz Room Records label is a little known 1976 underground classic by Hugo Heredia. The ‘Mananita Pampera’ album was recorded in Germany and later released on the small French label, ‘Cote D’Azur’, which only ended up releasing a handful of albums during its short reign. The album was championed by Paul Murphy and was a firm favourite on the emerging London jazz dance circuit. It’s another one of those essential fusion rarities that has somehow slipped under the reissue radar until now.

Recorded in Germany with an international line up comprising of Swiss double bassist Peter Frei, Brazillian percussionist Ivanir Mandrake Do Nascimento, drummer Peter Schmidlin, pianist Horace Parlan and saxophonist Hugo Heredia, the album highlight is the unique style of the leader and his heavyweight fusion style. This is epitomised on ‘El Beto’, a serious uptempo Latin jazz jam highlighting the Argentine leader on flute, alongside pianist Horace Parlan, who provides a perfect repetitive left-hand groove and tempo for the leaders infectious sound. Hugo Heredia exchanges flute for the tenor saxophone towards the latter stage of this 8-minute piece and it’s here that a nod towards his fellow countryman Gato Barbieri seems apparent and a nice touch indeed, if that’s the case. There’s a particular free feel about the track as though not contained by the four walls of a studio or the rigidity of a rehearsed composition.

‘Mananita Pampera’ is a true Afro-Cuban masterpiece with a European touch and it’s interesting to hear the sound that arrives throughout the album. Recorded in Germany, released on a French label, with Swiss, Italian, American, Danish, Brazillian, Argentine and more, the album is a superb mix of jazz and Latin fusion with a good balance between the two styles.

‘Have You Met Miss…?’ is a welcome reprieve from the uptempo, with Hugo Heredia playing a chilled soprano saxophone set alongside the softer side of Horace Parlan’s playing with some tempered drumming support adding a slight lift to the groove although it’s really a perfect setting for both piano and soprano saxophone to thrive.

Throughout the album, there’s some great playing by all the musicians and on the uptempo gutsy ‘Al Bebbe Guia’, Hugo’s earthy tenor again airs a slight resemblance to Gato Barbieri with some powerful playing and memorable moments, whilst percussionist Mandrake and drummer Peter Schmidlin weave a dynamic momentum for Horace Parlan to follow. Before moving to Denmark in the early 1970s and later becoming a citizen of the country, Horace Parlan recorded some great albums back in the States, such as ‘Heading South’ and ‘Happy Frame Of Mind’ in his early relationship stages with Blue Note Records, as well as featuring on many great albums alongside names including Charlie Mingus, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Booker Ervin, Johnny Griffin, Archie Shepp and many more.

A welcome reissue of a little known album on a label that is sure to bring more great releases. Meanwhile, check out this live performance from Hugo Heredia on Bandcamp.

Mark Jones

Miyasaka + 5 ‘Animals Garden’ 2LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Originally recorded in 1979 on the iconic Tokyo based label, ALM, ‘Animals Garden’ was recorded as a one-off project led by master drummer Takashi ‘Bear’ Miyasaka featuring Hiroshi Itaya on trombone, Tsugaki Hiromichi on piano, Genji Sawai on both soprano and tenor, Koiche Matsukaze on alto and tenor.

Since its release back in 1979, the album has become a real collector’s piece, demanding hefty prices for a mint copy. Under the direction of the label founder Yukio Kojima and his visionary approach, the album nestled amongst other important works for the record label within the Kojima studio set up. Together with his avant-garde parent label ALM-Uranoia, Yukio Kojima managed to attract many respected Japanese jazz musicians and although the jazz side of the label wasn’t so extensive, it aired a similar approach to the outlook that great labels such as Nimbus West, Strata-East or ESP Disk imbued with their collective spirit and input. This superb project features four solid pieces all composed by the leader with exceptional playing throughout the session.

The title track ‘Animals Garden’ was selected for inclusion on the J Jazz volume 2 compilation; an excellent documentation of Japanese jazz from a particular period of Japanese jazz put together by Tony Higgins and Mike Peven. ‘Animals Garden’ is the fourth album to be reissued off the back of the J-Jazz Masterclass compilation series, following the Takeo Moriyama album ‘East Plants’, the Koichi Matsukaze Trio + Toshiyuki Daitok album ‘Earth Mother’ and the Tohru Aizawa Quartet album ‘Tachibana Vol. 1’. Check the bizarre story behind the Tachibana album on the following link. The album doubled up as a business card.

Selected by Tony Higgins and Mike Peven, ‘Animals Garden’ is immaculately packaged and lovingly restored with the greatest attention towards the sound quality and presentation. It’s quite evident that both compilers share an extensive knowledge of the more collectable Japanese Jazz works and their focus on a particular time frame makes for an intriguing insight of this particular period of transition and the musicians that were such a big part of the movement in Japan.

The album features four compositions by Takashi ‘Bear’ Miyasaka. With most pieces exceeding the 10-minute mark; ample room is given for the leader and his fellow musicians to stretch out, adding a more spacious feel throughout the sets. It’s an all-round performance of the highest quality.

As well as the brilliant modal title track that featured on the 2nd volume of the J-Jazz compilation, the album includes three other strong tracks that bring the whole package together really well. ‘Ballard For Mammoth’ is a warm laid back 14-minute composition with trombonist Hirioshi Itaya setting the mood whilst creating space for pianist Tsugaki Hiromichi’s sparse touches of harmonic beauty and delicate runs.

‘Pecker’s Blues’ is an uptempo piece with some special sharp playing by Koichi Matsukaze whilst trombonist Hiroshi Itaya adds a staccato approach which was slightly reminiscent of JJ Johnson.

Koichi Matsukaze is a Japanese jazz saxophonist and flautist deservedly back in the spotlight after some interesting compilations from the Jazzman label and BBE Music focused attention towards his and other contributions to the developments of jazz in Japan during an important transitional period between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s​. ‘Under Construction’ and ‘Earth Mother’ were just two Koichi Matsukaze pieces that featured on compilations and his contribution on this superb album follows his aforementioned trio album reissue for BBE in 2018.

This rare album is a welcome reissue that is top quality throughout the album’s four exceptional tracks.

Mark Jones

Urban Gardening – A UK Vibe Mix

For some while I’ve had a sense that I was becoming stuck down a bit of a musical rabbit hole, becoming a little too narrow in my tastes.

Time to climb out and listen to the world with new ears.

Andy Hazell

Mark de Clive-Lowe – The Offering
Avantdale Bowling Club – Years Gone By
Jamael Dean – Eledumare
JAB – Directions
Sampa the Great – Freedom
Noname – Regal
Barney McAll – Heavenly Waters
Joe Armon-Jones – Almost Went Too Far
Benny Sings – Not Enough
Tom Cawley – The Ungainlies
João Bosco – A Nível De…
Milton Nascimento – Milagre Dos Peixes
André Mehmari / Carlos Aguirre / Juan Quintero – Ida e Volta
Simon Goubert / Ablaye Cissoko – Waxtan
Abdullah Ibrahim – Saud
Mandisi Dyantsis – Somandla
Abbey Lincoln – Africa
SEED Ensemble – WAKE (for Grenfell)
Binker Golding – You, That Place, That Time

Leon Maria Plecity ‘Otherworld’ CD (JazzHausMusik) 5/5

I suspect that, like me, many readers will not know Plecity or his music, so here’s a little background… Plecity is a guitarist and composer born in Düsseldorf in 1995. He started on piano, taking lessons from the age of six, switching to guitar at the age of 14. He has recorded previously on albums by others, but this is the first album to be released under his own name.

Here is a quintet with tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums supporting the guitarist and, like Plecity, all of his band-mates are little known on the wider jazz scene. The quintet has been performing together since 2017. The eight compositions making up the album are all written and arranged by the leader. They are all carefully crafted with much care and attention to detail. Each piece allows ample space for self-expression from the band members. The music can sometimes be intense and at other times fragile and delicate. I’m reminded of the best of the music produced by the ECM label and of the best of the Scandinavian groups that seem to be all-pervasive currently. The recorded sound is exemplary.

The album opens with ‘The end of a Voyage’ and begins in a contemplative form with the tenor saxophone centre stage before the guitarist enters. Thereafter a gentle insistent beat ushers in the complex theme statement with tenor and guitar in unison before a commanding bass feature, followed by fine piano as the temperature slowly rises. Delicately nimble saxophone figures take over gradually increasing in complexity and intensity.

‘Waves of Light’ is a similarly complex theme, at once delicate and yet joyful and the quintet acquit themselves well throughout the ebb and flow of the music.

‘Inner Riot’ introduces electronic keyboard and another of the leader’s collection of guitars. Here he sounds at times like a combination of a more powerful Pat Metheny combined with early John Abercrombie with a little Bill Frisell thrown in for good measure and the intensity in his playing is palpable. There is a fine keyboard solo and the drummer has a chance to show his abilities.

‘Halcyon Bird’ exhibits a kind of relaxed intensity and commences with some wonderfully ruminative piano. The guitarist here reminding me of Pat Martino in his approach to the instrument.

Unusually, ‘Otherworld’ is ushered in by the drummer before first tenor and then guitar take up the lovely introspective melody. The feel changes to a more aggressive intensity during the saxophonist’s solo before returning to the beguiling melody.

‘Ondine’ is introduced by the bassist before the piano builds musical wisps of smoke in the air and then the theme is sketched out by the guitarist, at times hinting at a hitherto unnoticed blues element in his playing.

‘Fear of Rejection’ is altogether more impassioned with the guitarist taking on the persona of guitar maestro Terje Rypdal in rock mode at the outset, but this soon gives way to more melodic gracefulness from the pianist before high-intensity guitar returns.

The set concludes with ‘Dawn’ where again saxophone and guitar (this time acoustic) take on the beautiful tune. This, for me, is the outstanding piece on the album. It threatens to break into a Jobim- style bossa-nova from time to time and the thoughtful keyboard solo is exquisite.

This is an album full of variety which will hold the listener’s attention throughout. The musicianship is of the highest order as is the recording quality and although you may not know Plecity just yet, make a note of the name because he is likely to soon be joining the ranks of the best of the current crop of jazz guitarists.

Alan Musson

Da Lata ‘Birds’ LP/CD (Da Lata Music/Kartel) 4/5

‘Birds’ is the fourth album from London’s Afro-Brazilian soul duo, Da Lata, making this their first record release in five years. With past releases on Palm Pictures and Agogo Records, Da Lata now find themselves aligned with London’s Kartel Music Group, home to a variety of eclectic and diverse acts including saxophonist Colin Stetson, US rapper Chali 2na and trip-hop icons, Morcheeba.

Comprised of musician Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge – both former members of the 90s Brazilian musical outfit Batu – Da Lata have developed a strong reputation and catalogue stemming back to their 2000 debut, ‘Songs From The Tin’, and through their subsequent releases ‘Serious’ and ‘Fabiola’. Da Lata’s music has always been something of a sum of all its parts – while absolutely a celebration of African and Brazilian musical styles and genres, its origins from the late-90s London scene have always instilled a more versatile and all-encompassing dynamic as it teetered along the trip-hop, electronica and broken beat genres happily creating music that boasted elements of each.

Spearheaded by the singles ‘Memory Man’ (featuring Courtney Dennie) and ‘Oba Lata’, ‘Birds’ presents ten tracks of such a perfectly-balanced amalgamation of everything listeners have come to expect and love from Da Lata’s music. While songs like the album opener ‘Mentality’ (featuring Diabel Cissokho) and second single ‘Oba Lata’ showcase Franck and Forge’s afrobeat-esque styles, songs like ‘To B’ (featuring Adriana Vasques) and ‘Thunder of Silence’, which boasts the vocal talents of the incredible Bembé Segué, delve deeper into the band’s signature Latin inspirations. The vastly underrated vocalist Vanessa Freeman, herself famed for her appearances with artists as varied as The Baker Brothers, Kyoto Jazz Massive and Reel People, appears on perhaps the album highlight ‘Sway’, and the nostalgic folky soul of the closing title track provides Luiz Gabriel Lopes a perfectly lush backdrop to close the album. Some of the collaborators assembled on ‘Birds’ serve as long-standing contributors with some having appeared as far back as ‘Songs From The Tin’ and some even further back to the Batu days, like percussionist Carl Smith and drummer Tristan Banks.

‘Birds’ marks an interesting evolution for Da Lata’s music as we approach twenty years since the band’s debut record. While still celebrating all of the musical influences, styles and genres that they have always heralded for inspiration, the results are perhaps more accessible than they’ve ever been resulting in a welcome return after a five-year absence.

Live date:
Da Lata plus DJ Patrick Forge at The Hideway, London – 15th November – tickets HERE

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Da Lata ‘Fabiola’ LP/CD (Agogo) 3/5

Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Orchestra with Brooklyn Raga Massive ‘Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas’ 3LP/2CD (Meta) 5/5

I don’t feel equipped to review this album, neither emotionally or technically. It overheats my tiny brain and asks me “spiritual” questions I haven’t begun to feel answers for. I don’t fear it though, in fact, I am deeply in love with it, but I am a touch overwhelmed by it. Its expansive otherness, its core rasa, remind of the feeling I get when listening to my heroes; Cherry, Sanders, Sun Ra, Coltrane. It’s that close to being *too* big.

Where to start then? Facts. Facts might help.

“Ragmala” is created by 40 odd musicians from Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra (termed the “future orchestra” by Bennie Maupin) and Brooklyn Raga Massive (an artist community rooted in both traditional Indian and South Asian classical music, as well as cross-cultural Raga inspired music, hailed as the “leaders of a raga renaissance” by the New Yorker).

Go: Organic Orchestra are a two-decade old, world concept/community of ever-changing musicians from everywhere: Mongolia, Nepal, Senegal, Ghana, Japan, Korea, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, Haiti, Argentina, Brazil, Jamaica; all expressing themselves within Rudolph’s yogic framework, following no set instrumentation (8 bass players one night, none the next) but always leading to heightened exploration and discovery.

Rudolph’s intent to push boundaries and reach for the new has urged him to design matrices and cosmograms to map out scales and intervallic patterns for the musicians, in place of the Western notational scores. His matrices derive from Schoenberg’s “magic boxes” but they don’t conform to a formula, more flexible like a raga’s scale/melody middle ground. He also applies a unique rhythm concept he calls Ostinatos of Circularity, “It’s like the cycle references you would experience in Indian music,” he says, “where things orbit around, and then come together, like a circle.” It combines the rhythms you would find in North Indian (he studied tabla for decades) and Middle Eastern music.

Those 3 paragraphs of facts do indeed help, I think. They give a context for the globe-traversing blend of cross-continental sounds, underlain by the raga. They raise expectations for the array of instruments used; sitar, percussion (bata, caxixi, wood box surdo, mineiro, okonkolo, tabla and more), violins, didgeridoo, reeds, midrigan, the chromatic tambin, brass, guitar, bass, harp. They brace you for the deep, fearless, 20-track long listening experience that awaits. This ain’t no background wash to do the pots to or a singalong for that long family drive to visit the folks. It’s a serious piece of work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t groove, it just means it needs to be listened to; it needs your focus.

“Mousa Azure” shows us the way to enlightenment with simple, surging circular patterns, Alice Coltrane-ish washes and stabs and Hassan Hakmoun’s rejoicing, soaring Gnawa voice. “Rotations” has an intense, hip, filmic, symphonic jazz groove that would have benefited any 60s thriller, so long as they could work in a loosely Eastern connection. “Ecliptic” mesmerically plods, swells and deflates while, contrastingly, “Savannahs” rides hard and long, relentless and urgent, extending, propelling; needing to arrive at or escape somewhere.

“Shantha” is pure and brief, an empathic violin, guitar duo. “Wandering Star” speaks of freedom and chaos with its percussive bed and sitar wash attacked by unexpected bursts of heavy strings and stinging guitar. “Ascent to Now” is slick as, with a deep, angular, eyes-closed-head-nodding Strata-East groove and limpid flute skimming and skating.

“Lamentations” is achingly remote guitar, violin and bass, “Dialectic” is percussive peace, “Thirteen Moons” is bowed drama and “Reflective” is, well, reflective. “Glare of the Tiger” initially surprises with its distorted guitar histrionics and metronomic beat and power before expanding into a tense strings/flute/guitar elegant diffusion. “We Grieve” moans and weeps its grief in pockets of lament; didgeridoo, horns, strings all contributing their personal story of loss to the wake’s congregation.

“Turiya” is an uplifting, easy swinging, spiritual jazz/psych saunter. “Syntactic Journey” is the lightly-cacophonous meeting place of symphonic jazz and contemporary classical while “Sunset Lake” is a gloriously trippy, trancy ascendancy to a higher state of awareness. “Africa 21” brings the danceable funk, cleansed and stretched to the devotional by swirling horns, reeds and voices reaching ever, ever higher. “Gone to Earth” is an unlikely brusque, visceral, guttural goodbye.

As I said at the top, this album is very big, very important, hard for me to fully assimilate. It’s beautiful, expansive and majestic with a palpable deep connectedness but a virtuosic freedom too. It manages to forge a focused synergistic relationship between jazz, Indian Classical, West African etc. music while still expressing individual voices and creating a universal, not generic, whole. It is an authoritative step forward in the evolution of a truly global, celestial, cosmic “world” music.

“This album feels like the culmination of everything I’ve been reaching for in my creative pursuits,” says Rudolph “With this music I can hear the humanity of all these different musicians shine through, and their voices bring forth something that’s never existed before.” No wonder it feels so close to being *too* big.

Ian Ward