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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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JOHN MAYER

Etudes/Radha Krishna

First Hand FHR 01

 

 



1. Intro and Rondo
2. Capriccio
3. Serenade
4. Toccata
5. Saraband
6. Radha Krishna, Act 1
7. Radha Krishna, Act 2
 
Tracks 1-5

John Mayer - Violin
Chris Taylor - Flute
Ian Hammer - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Tony Coe - Tenor sax, clarinet
Pat Smythe - Piano
Coleridge Goode - Bass
John Marshall - Drums
Diwan Motihar - Sitar
Viram Jasani - Sitar, tanpura
Keshav Sathe - Tabla
Tracks 6 and 7

Clem Alford - Sitar
Keshav Sathe - Tabla
The Lansdowne String Trio
Tristan Fry - Percussion
Coleridge Goode - Bass
Chris Taylor - Flute
Tony Coe - Tenor sax, clarinet, oboe, drums
Neil Coton - Sarod
Susan Lees - Contralto
Austin Miskell - Tenor
Nicolette Bernard - Narrator

 

The Beatles are often credited with popularising Indian music in the West, as a result of their association with Ravi Shankar. But many of us had already been made aware of Indian music in the late fifties through such things as the films of Satyajit Ray, starting with Pather Panchali in 1955. John Mayer began attempting to fuse Indian music with jazz with his Indo-Jazz Fusions group, which recorded four LPs between 1966 and 1969. Etudes was originally released in 1969 on the Sonet label and is only now reissued on this CD, along with Radha Krishna from 1971.

Indo-Jazz Fusions began as a double quintet - five Indian musicians and five jazzmen, including alto-saxist Joe Harriott. Of Anglo-Indian parentage, John Mayer trained as a classical violinist but had for long been interested in blending Indian and western styles. As early as 1958, his Dance Suiite for sitar, flute, tabla, tanpura and symphony orchestra was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Indeed, the second part of this CD - a musical dramatisation of the story of Radha and her love for Lord Krishna - is more like a classical piece than jazz. The Indo-Jazz Fusions experiment created quite a stir, presenting new possibilities drawn from the Indian ingredients of ragas and talas, on which the jazz musicians improvised. It was an intriguing but seldom a completely integrated fusion. Later experiments, like John McLaughlin's Shakti (with Zakir Hussain and other Indian musicians), were more successful because they held together better. Yet John Mayer certainly acted as a pioneer in this field.

And there is much to enjoy in the first five tracks of this album - particularly the improvising by tenorist Tony Coe. For example, Serenade starts as if it is a slightly Indianised piece by Bach, with John Mayer's violin dominant, but the jazz element surfaces when Coe's swirling tenor sax enters, to be followed by some equally jazzy piano from Pat Smythe. Drummer John Marshall can be depended upon to raise the temperature whenever he gets a chance, and there are some good jazz solos from flautist Chris Taylor and trumpeter Ian Hammer.

Indo-Jazz Fusions lasted until Joe Harriott died in 1973, and the group was revived by John Mayer about nine years before his death in 2004. That revived group included John's son, sitarist Jonathan - and he has now formed a new group called The Teak Project, whose self-titled debut album has just been released (First Hand FHR 02). Although this group claims to continue John's work of fusing jazz and Indian music, the Teak Project is simply a trio of sitar, guitar and tabla, without any powerful jazz ingredient. Guitarist Justin Quinn admittedly has experience in jazz and rock as well as Indian music, but the jazz content of the Teak Project's album is disappointingly low. Their debut album lacks the fire which made the original Indo-Jazz Fusions so invigorating.

Tony Augarde

 

 

 

 



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