Six Sideways, Side by Side
Anoushka Shankar learned the Indian classical musical tradition from perhaps its best teacher, her father Ravi Shankar. She made her recording debut on In Celebration, George Harrison's four-CD retrospective tribute to her father, and her debut as a solo artist with 1988's Anoushka. Anoushka's first album of original material, Rise (2005), was nominated for the Best Contemporary World Music Grammy Award. Here she merges her sitar, piano and keyboards with the vision of Karsh Kale, founding member of the seminal Tabla Beat Science and one of the leading exponents in the marriage of traditional Indian with modern electronic music. Father Ravi, Sting, MIDIval Punditz and Norah Jones (Anoushka's half sister) are among their other guests.
It's hard to imagine a more beautiful opening track than "Burn, which cinematically sweeps through your ears all that is beautiful about classical and contemporary Indian music: Its gorgeous lilting melody sounding an evocative siren's call to "dancing on the tip of the evening moon, contemplative sitar, thundering percussion and ancient violins. "Easy is orchestrated just as beautifully, a beauty matched by Jones' soft and lush vocal.
Kale's production of "Slither and "PD7 are archetypes of his new school of Indian music: Modern hip-hop / DJ technology explores ancient / traditional Indian culture, scratching out rhythm, tabla ricocheting amidst the beats, vocals swimming between channels like haunting ghosts, and Shankar's sitar sparkles in ripples and waves.
Shankar and Kale paint colorfully outside this palette too. In "A Perfect Rain, the bright acoustic guitar, dancing violin and harmonized male vocals sound like the Pat Metheny-Lyle Mays band with Pedro Aznar that ripped off three Grammy-winning albums beginning with First Circle. "Little Glass Folk opens up like you're pulling a curtain aside to reveal an 18th century ballroom dance, including string, flute and drum sections completely orchestrated in waltz time, with sitar in this context picking and twirling like a jig.
Down to the Bone
Narada Jazz / EMI
Contemporary jazz doesn't come much better than the seventh release from this UK-based ensemble led by founder and producer Stuart Wade, who plays no instruments but is very instrumental in Supercharged's bright, crisp contemporary sound.
As drummer Adam Riley, alternating bassists Richard Sadler and Julian Crampton, and guitarist Tony Remy man the rhythm section, alto saxophonist Paul "Shilts Wiemar leads most melodies in the effusive style of David Sanborn's energetic jazz pop, supported and stoked by the D.C. Horns. In the opening "Supercharged, for example, Remy's rhythm guitar riff provides the rail that keeps the tune grounded, even as hot saxophone solos threaten to jump the train clear off this track.
Two tracks with vocals, "Smile to Shine and "Shake it Up, thump out echoes of Wiemar's previous life in the Brand New Heavies, soulful R&B grooves that toy playfully with jazz. "Paradise Shuffle elegantly glides on acoustic piano, while electric keyboards play so prominent a role in "Cosmic Fuzz, and its horn chart counterpunches the melody so hard, that it sounds like a tribute to Ramsey Lewis' classic jazz-funk fusion set with Earth Wind & Fire, Sun Goddess.
"Electric Vibes features Roy Ayers on his trademark instrument, spotlighting him in the same comfortably sleek disco-funk-jazz setting as his famous fusion ensemble Ubiquity and proving he has not lost any velocity or even one inch of movement from his funky, fluid electric vibes fastball.
Supercharged cuts Down to the Bone with a strong finishing sprint, starting with the ruckus "Space Dust. Sharp horn punches complete and counterpoint the stylish hooks in "Hip City, like the Tower of Power throwing down with George Benson. With its bass line that bounces out of the arrangement, tape loop and sticky-fingered guitar, "Make it Funky seems like the purpose of this entire exercise.
Most importantly, Down to the Bone sounds like the musicians had such fun recording it that you almost cannot help enjoy your listen to it.