SHEZ RAJA PROFILED (2011): Jazz with a world view

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Shez Raja Collective: Karmic Flow
SHEZ RAJA PROFILED (2011): Jazz with a world view

British jazz bassist Shez Raja confounds expectation in the best possible way. A scan of reviews and comments in the British press for the Shez Raja Collective (which included saxophonist Andy Sheppard and trumpeter Claude Deppa on the new album Mystic Radikal) refer to funkmeister Bootsy Collins and Marcus Miller (behind Miles Davis albums such as Tutu), Stanley Clarke and the Mahavisnu Orchestra as if lead by Jaco Pastorius.

And of course there are influences from Raja's Asian background (he studied tabla drumming) -- which doesn't quite explain the Afro-influence and steel pans on Mandala Girl, one of the standouts on Mystic Radikal. (Probably because Deppa was born in South Africa.)

Whatever it is Raja is doing, critcis are liking it as it bridges fusion and world music from a band which also includes electric violin.

33JAZZ208As reviewer George Mitton noted at All About Jazz: "Mystic Radikal is an exciting mixture that's all the more enjoyable because the constituent elements never seem forced or unnatural in combination.

"It's a melting pot, but without the political connotations of cultural friction. This is fusion music at its most straightforward and entertaining."

Born in north west London, Raja studied violin before picking up electric bass and at 18 moved to Leeds to study tabla and Indian music theory. He toured with Elephant Talk (a jazz/world music crossover group) and was in Loka whose album Fire Shepherds was well received at Elsewhere here.

By the time he hit London Raja was in demand as a session player and played Ronnie Scott's, toured with MC Lyte and formed his Collective in 207.

Mystic Radikal is the flexible group's third album and Guardian critic John Fordham noted "a Headhunters-like bravura to some tracks, and the unruly Mandala Girl and ethereal Beauty of the Beast close an album that warms up in imagination as it progresses".

Shez Raja comes to New Zealand for a short tour in late February/early March and will pick up local musicians Timothy William (award-wining pianist), Pascal Roggen (vioilin) and Steven Webster (drums).

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mark - Feb 14, 2011

I was sent this CD to review for my It's A Jazz Thing radio show by local keyboard player Tim Williams. My attention was draw to it by the presence of Andy Sheppard whos music I have admired for many years (although someone whos opinion I respect very much was less than impressed with Sheppard's last release on ECM).

Shez Raja's CD is good but not great in my opinion. It slips between world "fluffyness" and glossy studio produced jazz-fusion. It does not do either genre extremely well but is pleasant enough. I believe Gene Rivers will be interviewing Raja on his GeorgeFM show when Raja is here.

On a slightly digressive (is that a word) note - i saw Stanley Clarke live last Friday night and wonder why anyone with bother to try and play the bass after witnessing Clarke live.

Sarah - Mar 18, 2011

I saw the Shez Raja band at Mission Bay Jazz Festival and out of the dozen or so bands I saw they were by far the best,. SO much energy and wonderful eclectic music. I picked up a copy of the album there and haven’t stopped listening since! I saw their next gig at Rakinos. Again another great show (although I got there late nd only caught the last half! Great band & v friendly guys!

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