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Pling Music

Bhattacharya/Grønseth/Wessel Quartet

PLING MUSIC PLING015 [54:53]

 

 

 

1.Kirwani

2.Gaoti

3.Charushree

4.Bahut Acha

5.Lover’s Call

6.Goodnite Irene

Debashish Bhattacharya (chaturangui & national resophonic guitars)

Anders Lønne Grønseth (tenor & soprano saxophones)

Kenny Wessel (electric guitar)

Subhasis Bhattacharya (table & percussion)

rec:in New York, USA, October 2003, Livingston, New Jersey, USA, October 2006, Audio Center, Kolkata, India, February 2014, Oslo, Norway, April 2015.

 

There’s ‘crossover’ and there’s almost ‘crossover’ in which category this disc is. Basically it is Indian classical music with the injection of some sax and electric guitar that is designed to add rather to than distort the resultant sound. If you are a fan of Indian classical music as I am then you’ll love it for its restful beauty. What is always enlightening about music from the East is the incredible range of instruments there is and this disc shows that because though the chaturangui and national resophonic guitars sound like sitars they are quite different at least in looks. Watching a YouTube video of how a chaturangui guitar is played is fascinating as though it may look like a big, wide guitar it is played resting flat across crossed legs using a small metal bar in one hand and picks threaded on fingers on the other and there appear to be a lot of strings (22 in total I have discovered) in three sections each with a different function.

As far as the music goes it is lovely but it needs to be listened to as it is nigh on impossible to describe in words apart from saying as I have already that you’ll either love it or it will leave you cold. Is it jazz? In all conscience I can’t say it is but so what? For the picky purist it will do nothing but if you have an open mind and already have a love of Indian classical music then you will most definitely enjoy it. Perhaps you could start with Bahut Acha and Lover’s Call which are jazzier than the others apart from Goodnite Irene which is an oddity being a pretty straightforward rendition of the well known song on these instruments. I was surprised to see the name of Anders Lønne Grønseth listed in the quartet as he used to be a regular in a quartet that helped kick start the jazz club I am chairman of in Bradford, West Yorkshire when he was part of Dave Skinner’s quartet. That is one of the singular things about jazz that the only passports you need to play together wherever you’re from are willingness and desire and this disc shows that the seemingly unlikely combination of Indian, Norwegian and American musicians results in a most satisfying mix. In a way the disc reminds me of another ‘crossover’ (I really don’t find the term particularly helpful) disc in which another Norwegian saxophonist makes his mark on ‘classical’ music when Jan Garbarek improvises over the Hilliard Ensemble’s singing of medieval church music on the album Officium which was such a deserved though unexpected hit back in 1994.

One criticism I must mention is that there is no information on the source of the music or any background to the collaboration of the musicians; how they came together, what the aim of the disc was etc., and, strangely, no name is given for the quartet which I have listed simply by musicians’ names.

The combination of Debashish Bhattacharya’s mastery of the Indian slide guitar, the gracefully elegant sounds from Kenny Wessels’ electric guitar and Anders Lønne Grønseth’s gently relaxing saxophones all complemented by Debashish’s brother Subhasis on tabla and percussion is quite hypnotic and you’d have to be a really hard-nosed purist to be unaffected by the disc. I urge you to give it a try though I’m pretty sure fans of Indo-Jazz fusion or of Ravi Shakar and others will require no further encouragement. The only downside generally with this kind of fusion is that each style of music: jazz and Indian classical can have their moments of hyper activity while the merging of the two genres seems to tame the tigers in each rendering them more like playful pussy cats and this disc is no different on that score; I still liked it though and I’m sure you will too!

Steve Arloff

The combination...is quite hypnotic




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