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From the Inside Out

Three of a Perfect Pair

By Published: March 22, 2009

Bombay Dub Orchestra
3 Cities
Six Degrees
2008

In the 1950s, some of the first waves of a "third stream" in music flowed through the works of Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
b.1925
composer/conductor
, John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
and others working to harmonize the traditions of American classical (jazz) and European classical music. Thanks to communication technology, the world has grown both bigger and smaller in the decades since passed. Today, visionary musicians such as the Bombay Dub Orchestra work to synthesize a new "third stream" that brings together the historic, modern and popular music traditions of Western and Eastern cultures to chart their own new path toward a profoundly global musical village.

3 Cities was primarily recorded with vocalists and classical and street musicians in Chennai and Mumbai (India), then assembled and produced by Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay in London. It is simultaneously ancient and spiritual, and hip-hop stylish and sleek. "Journey" snapshots in brilliant colors the terrain of this third path. It's built upon two Indian ragas intersected by an acoustic jazz piano interlude, all enrobed in twirling flutes and strings like thick dark chocolate, with final steps that seem to have no measured rhythm and essentially float in space time. "Journey" leaves you with the breathtaking view of "Strange Constellations," a sadly beautiful lesson in how electronic or synthetic music can still feel emotionally expressive.

"Map of Dusk" sways upon a softly blue guitar hook that would not sound out of place on a typical smooth jazz "groove" playlist. But Cities does more than contemplate modern life—it reflects in chrome and steel its often harrowing pace. Twisting within the twin spines of North Indian vocals and South Indian percussion, "Spiral" whips through its landscape like a tornado, even pouring out a volcanic duel between the drums and Kartik's vocal. "Monsoon Malabar" sounds nearly indescribable: the production masterfully stretches out one single vocal syllable, "ripples" it into repeated beats, then folds those beats into the rhythm track. The rhythm track keeps propelling the futuristic beat forward even as it keeps tugging backward into traditional Indian melodies and sounds. Here and almost every other place, 3 Cities proves to be an amazing travelogue, and amazing music.

The Peter Scharli Trio Featuring Ithamara Koorax
Obrigado Dom Um Romao
TCB Records
2008

Obrigado is both a happy and sad accident. Percussion master Dom Um Romao

Dom Um Romao
1925 - 2005
percussion
was friends and played extensively with both Peter Scharli, one of Europe's most inventive composers and trumpeters, and Brazilian vocal powerhouse Ithamara Koorax. Romao introduced the other two, and the three began planning a performance tour together. Sadly, Romao died while these tour plans were still being made ("Manha De Carnival" is arranged around one of Romao's final recordings, on berimbau), so Scharli and Koorax recorded this tribute to their fallen companion instead.

Their renditions of the Brazilian folk song "Prenda Minha (Song #2)" and "Aos Pes da Cruz" were inspired by ones recorded by another trumpeter, Miles Davis

Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, for his Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
Quiet Nights sessions. Koorax shades her vocal in both tunes with brassy overtones that track so closely with Scharli's trumpet that it's extraordinarily difficult to distinguish between their two instruments. The more angular, be-boppish melody of "Two and One" incisively cuts then digs into its groove.

Scharli and Koorax also create an odd but eventually charming version of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" by stretching out the first half of each verse over twice the number of bars, so that each second half seems to elastically "snap back" into standard time, while Scharli's trumpet solo yearns toward the soft romantic standard set for this tune by Chet Baker

Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
.

When her primary instrumental partner is a horn, does Koorax sing differently than she would if she was accompanied by, for example, piano? "I felt, more than ever, like a horn during the Obrigado sessions," she exclusively explained to AAJ. "Sometimes I really feel that there are two horns on the album, me and Peter's trumpet. In some tracks, like 'Estate' and 'Aos Pes da Cruz,' I tried to caress the tune like a flugelhorn player would do; on 'Aos Pes' and 'Song #2 / Prenda Minha,' I reproduced or quoted some of Miles' phrasing on Gil Evans' scores. I was very influenced not only by singers but also by trumpeters like Lew Soloff

Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff
b.1944
trumpet
(in my teens I loved his work with Blood Sweat & Tears), Miles, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
and, of course, Chet Baker. Trumpet is my favorite instrument! Not to mention that we decided to pay tribute to a drummer/percussionist without using drums or percussion!"


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