For many of us Westerners, the introduction to Indian music was through sitarist Ravi Shankar whose work was promoted by the Beatles' George Harrison or John Coltrane's exploration of combining Indian music and jazz. The musical meeting of East and West is still largely unexplored territory but the Water Lily Acoustics label, run by Kavi Alexander, is writing new chapters in world music. The term, Indian music is rather generic and is recognized by two classical styles, Hindustrani and Karnatak. Hindustrani, from Northern India is the more familiar of the two, of which Shankar performs. Karnatak, from Southern India is lesser known to the West, although both forms are followed with equal devotion in their home country. It originated from the ancient Dravidians, and is more austere, revolving around fixed compositions. On the surface, it is difficult to see why its structured framework has appealed to jazz musicians, as improvisation is essential.
Subramaniam and Coryell's collaborative efforts go as far back as 1978, on an energetic cerebral exercise, "Spiritual Dance." They've worked together numerous times, but on this occasion, the studio date was the stage for emotional closure for Subramaniam, who lost his wife. This album is a metaphoric "Taj Mahal" for Subramaniam, meaning this is his memorial to his beloved, just like that of the Indian aristocrat who commissioned the world famous landmark for that same purpose. Although Karnatak sounds stoic, Subramaniam ably fills emotion to the brim without losing Karnatak's musical vision. "The Way You Placed My Bow" has the guitar and violin reply to the call of the otherworld, represented by a mournful drone. Coryell splashes folk like elements while Subramaniam expresses his everlasting emotional ties to his wife in "Beyond the Flames." They perform some "Eastern blues" in "Love is Stronger than Death," leaving an afterglow of eeriness within a transcendental setting, with its conclusion Coryell's harmonic gesture. "Alone in the Ganges" relates to setting a departed's physical remains into the Ganges, symbolizing death as part of life's cycle. Here, Coryell expresses such, intensifying in volume and speed but without exaggeration.