Harmony and modality can make for strange bedfellows. The blending of Indian and Western music is not easy, given the streams from which they spring. The parallel streams in which the two flow becomes apparent on this recording when the Indian musicians bring their own rhythm into play, and Katharine Cartwright and Richard Oppenheim invest a Western attitude that for the most part does not assimilate.
Vocalist Cartwright and sax man Oppenheim recorded the music in Mumbai, India (aka Bombay) and gave it final shape in New York. The poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti was another inspiration, and so were unusual time signatures. They start well enough. “Johnny Nolan” brings in an appropriate stance, the sound in compact cleave with the rhythm. Cartwright’s wordless improvisations and Oppenheim’s bending of the notes get to the sensibility of the mode, and when Cartwright flexes the phrasing, she slips in compactly with her overdubbed vocals adding to the impress. Her singing impacts “Poet Like an Acrobat” and Oppenheim brings in a raga feel to the sax.
On the other hand, “Peacocks Walked” does not come off. Cartwright has a beautifully expressive voice, but the straight line she treads does not sit in well with the percussive rhythm, as is the case when Oppenheim comes in with a darkly modulated sax that would have had great impact given the right ambience. The rest of the tunes nestle in a groove that lends the posit to Kipling and what he felt about the meeting of the East and the West.