Deepak Ram: Steps (2008)
Deepak Ram is an established master of the bansuri , an Indian bamboo flute, and a prolific recording artist whose main focus has been North Indian classical music. On Steps, the South African-born Ram showcases an uncanny ability to improvise with the bansuri in a jazz setting, accompanied by guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Jamey Haddad.
The disc has a mellow flavor with an abundance of world-beat grooves. Stand-out tracks include the classic John Coltrane compositions, "Giant Steps" and "Naima," George Gershwin's "Summertime" and the Ram original "Blues for Shyam Baba." "Giant Steps," presented as a light bossa-nova, showcases Ram brilliantly negotiating the tune's harmonic demands, defying the non-jazz expectations of his instrument. "My Funny Valentine," the disc closer swings along nicely and features an interesting exchange of riffs between Ram and Juris.
Throughout the recording, Juris establishes himself as a guitarist of diverse offerings, performing convincingly on both electric and acoustic guitars. His electrified solo on "October" is a spontaneous highlight of the session. Marino's bass lines are warm, syncopated and supportive, laying a solid foundation for Ram to build on. Haddad adds multiple layers of color, utilizing various percussion instruments as well as traditional drum-kit.
The idea of using an unconventional instrument like the bansuri on a jazz recording finds success in the hands of a master musician like Ram. The integration of musical cultures heard on Steps seems quite natural.
Track Listing: Giant Steps; Madiba's Dance; Blues for Shyam Baba; Summertime; October; Naima; All Blues; My Funny Valentine.
Personnel: Deepak Ram: bansuri; Vic Juris: guitar; Tony Marino: bass; Jamey Haddad: percussion, drums.