Friday, August 21, 2015

Ronu Majumdar - Hollow Bamboo

The world music bin at the record store is a depository for all non-Western sounding musics. From field recordings of  Australian aborigines spinning bull-roarers in a ritual context to studio-produced fusion musics that use an occasional tabla sample for the sake of added exoticism, the world music category catches them all. On Hollow Bamboo, celebrated bansuri player Ronu Majumdar tunes into a few of the different bandwidths offered within the world music spectrum. With half of the tracks he grounds his playing in traditional Hindustani works. Accompanied by the penetrating tabla playing of Abhijit Banerjee on most of these cuts, Majumdar whips up stunning melodic gusts that swirl in and out of time with the tabla. The other four tracks are experimental collaborations with trumpeter Jon Hassell, guitarists Rick Cox and Ry Cooder, and percussionist Joachim Cooder. "A Day for Trade Winds," a song formed upon richly textured guitar drones, is the most successful of these four fusion tracks because guitarists Cox and Cooder lay back and let Majumdar develop subtle, yet sophisticated, melodies. "African Queen" is a less successful hybrid, due in part to the fact that Joachim Cooder's hand drumming drowns out the superior playing of Banerjee. Whatever the contributions of his collaborators may be, Ronu Majumdar's sensitive performance on the hollow, bamboo bansuri makes this CD a great listen, no matter what end of the world music spectrum you're coming from. - by John Vallier, AMG

Artist: Ronu Majumdar
Album: Hollow Bamboo
Year: 2000
Label: Water Lily Acoustic
Runtime: 44:18

1.  Vaisnava Bhajan (Traditional) 6:04
2.  Krsna Kantha Kandam (Ry Cooder/Ronu Majumdar) 3:45
3.  African Queen (Ry Cooder/Ronu Majumdar) 3:26
4.  The Charmer Of Braj (Traditional) 6:27
5.  A Day For Trade Winds (Ry Cooder/Jon Hassell/Ronu Majumdar) 8:08
6.  Bay Of Bengal (Ry Cooder/Ronu Majumdar) 4:45
7.  River Song (Traditional) 5:02
8.  Hollow Bamboo (Traditional) 6:38

Ronu Majumdar (Bansuri)
Ry Cooder (Guitar, Oud) - 2,3,5,6
Jon Hassell (Trumpet) - 3,5
Abhijit Banerjee (Tabla) - 1,3,4,7
Rick Cox (Electric Guitar) - 2,3,5,6
Joachim Cooder (Percussion) - 3

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Joe Lovano - 52nd Street Themes

The CD by jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano blends New York attitude with Midwestern warmth in an homage to the Manhattan street where bebop ruled in the '50s and '60s. The music here, like that of such other thematic Lovano albums as Rush Hour (his 1995 celebration of third-stream music) and Celebrating Sinatra, evokes the past without being at all archival. Fronting a four-man sax section, Lovano blasts through such strong Dameronia as "The Scene Is Clean" and "Tadd's Delight," refreshes the indelible lyricism of Dameron's lovely "If You Could See Me Now," and, in an intimate duet with pianist John Hicks, velvetizes Billy Strayhorn's lush "Passion Flower." It also features Miles Davis' early "Sippin' at Bells"; Lovano's homage to Charlie Parker, the complex "Charlie Chan," a three-way saxophone conversation between Lovano and fellow tenormen George Garzone and Ralph Lalama that's punctuated by Lewis Nash's pinpoint drums; "Abstractions on 52nd Street," Lovano's extrapolation and embellishment of a Thelonious Monk line; and George Gershwin's "Embraceable You," plushly orchestrated by Willie "Face" Smith and lovingly performed by Lovano. Others contributing sax are Gary Smulyan (baritone) and Steve Slagle (alto); Tim Hagans and Conrad Herwig play trumpet and trombone, respectively, while Dennis Irwin handles bass. Like many other Lovano records, this hews close to tradition but updates it effectively. Besides the fervor of the playing -- Smith says he would've played saxophone, but these New York players were much better prepared -- the song selection is astute, Lovano's originals are solid, and Smith's sole compositional contribution, "Deal," is tasty indeed. - by Carlo Wolff, AMG

Artist: Joe Lovano Nonet
Album: 52nd Street Themes
Year: 2000
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 67:10

1.  If You Could See Me Now (Tadd Dameron / Carl Sigman) 3:51
2.  On A Misty Night (Tadd Dameron) 5:01
3.  Sippin' At Bells (Miles Davis) 5:08
4.  Passion Flower (Billy Strayhorn) 5:04
5.  Deal (Willie Smith) 7:11
6.  The Scene Is Clean (Tadd Dameron) 3:48
7.  Whatever Possess'd Me (Tadd Dameron) 3:56
8.  Charlie Chan (Joe Lovano) 8:07
9.  Theme For Ernie (Fred Lacey) 5:49
10.  Tadd's Delight (Tadd Dameron) 7:47
11.  Abstractions On 52nd Street (Joe Lovano) 2:04
12.  52nd Street Theme (Thelonious Monk) 4:27
13.  Embraceable You (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin) 4:57

Joe Lovano (Tenor Saxophone)
Dennis Irwin (Double Bass)
Lewis Nash (Drums)
John Hicks (Piano)
Steve Slagle (Alto Saxophone)
Gary Smulyan (Baritone Saxophone)
George Garzone (Tenor Saxophone)
Ralph Lalama (Tenor Saxophone)
Conrad Herwig (Trombone)
Tim Hagans (Trumpet)


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