Bhattacharya, Gronseth, Wessel: Bhattacharya/Gronseth/Wessel (pling)

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Goodnight Irene
Bhattacharya, Gronseth, Wessel: Bhattacharya/Gronseth/Wessel (pling)

Many decades ago Elsewhere fell for the album Karuna Supreme by American saxophonist John Handy and tabla player Ali Akbar Khan, just another in a long line of jazz and Indian music crossovers which started in the mid Sixties with Ravi Shankar's Improvisations (an Essential Elsewhere album) and lead on to the Indo-Jazz Fusion albums by Joe Harriott and John Mayer.

Because both jazz and Indian music share the tradition of improvisation, it seems a natural pairing – as John Coltrane and many others discovered.

The issue each party might have is that most often where both jazz and Indian classical ragas can soar and be vigorously challenging – if not downright challenging to all parties playing – the music of many Indo-jazz albums most often errs to the reflective and meditative.

That was certainly true of Karuna Supreme.

And this still-delightful album by Indian slide guitar master (and Elsewhere favourite) Debashish Bhattacharya, Norwegian saxophonist Anders Lonne Gronseth and New York guitarist Kenny Wessel occupies much the same thoughtful territory.

Bhattacharya's seductively hypnotic sound on his 22-string instrument, Wessel's fluid tones and Gronseth's often featherweight sound are never less than enjoyable, engaging and sometimes ineffably, romantically evocative as they draw on raga, dhun (Indian folk), emotionally cool but melodically seductive Scandinavian jazz traditions and post-Wes Montgomery rounded guitar tones.

Interesting version of Goodnight Irene though. 

But – accompanied by Subhasis Bhattacharya, Debashish's brother on tabla and percussion -- this is an enjoyable album which only confirms the familiar rather than extends it.

For more on this album and others in the Norwegian label Pling's catalogue go here.


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