Barb Jungr / Kuljit Bhamra / Russell Churney: Durga Rising (2012)
Durga Rising was recorded in 1996 but not properly released at the time. Featuring Barb Jungr on vocals, Kuljit Bhamra on percussion and Russell Churney on piano, it seems likely to attract more attention today than it did back in 1996. Since then, Jungr has enjoyed a burgeoning solo career accompanied by a string of awards that recognize her prowess as a cabaret singer, and Bhamra has gained prominence in several areas, including jazz, through his work with saxophonist Andy Sheppard. Tragically, Churney died of cancer in 2007, aged 42. (The current Durga Rising trio features pianist Simon Wallace, who regularly accompanies Jungr in solo concerts.)
The album is sub-titled "An Indo-Jazz Adventure." From saxophonist Joe Harriott and violinist John Mayer's Indo-Jazz Fusions in the sixties through Bob Belden's Miles from India (Times Square Records, 2008), fusions of jazz with Indian music have had limited success. But on Durga Rising, the rhythms of Bhamraan experienced producer of bhangrafit perfectly with his Indian percussion and the songs.
Of the album's 15 tracks, eleven are originals by trio members and four are covers. The latter are an eclectic mix that includes songs by Echo and the Bunnymen, John Martyn, and Bob Dylan alongside the standard "Unchain My Heart." Jungr displays her renowned ability to inhabit a song and make it her own and, unsurprisingly, all four tracks are excellent. In particular, Martyn's classic, "Go Down Easy," is sung as an irresistibly seductive invitation, with the sensuousness of its piano and cello intro matching that of the vocals. Now that Jungr enjoys a reputation as a Dylan interpreter sans pareil, this version of "Blind Willie McTell" is noteworthy as her first recording of a Dylan song. At nearly nine minutes, it is the album's longest and most memorable track. A slow burner, it begins in stately fashion, with Jungr caressing each syllable of every phrase to convey the nuances of their meaning. Steadily rising in intensity throughout, the song builds to a dramatic climax with piano and cello solos leading into a blues-wailing harmonica solo before a final impassioned reading of the song's chorus. Phew!
It is a measure of the album's quality that the original compositions easily hold their own in such company, with several already sounding like future standards. Foremost among these is the Churney-Jungr composed "Choose to be Alone," a darkly bitter song that is somewhat lightened by Churney's jaunty piano accompaniment. Its chorus gives a flavor of its tone:
Less is more and that's why Garbo was so right
So don't call me up at 4 a.m to tell me
You slashed your wrists for someone who ain't home
Get a doctor, sew up the skin
Get a full size bottle of gin
If you get the choice then choose to be alone.
The apocalyptic Green message of "Crimes Against Nature" by Jungr-Tomalin is just as impressive.
Altogether, Durga Rising is an album without a single weak track. Despite its vintage, it is an instant classic.
Track Listing: Watch Me as I Fall; Still Moving; How Could I Ever; Deeper and Deeper; Tears in a Bottle; The Cutter; Bombay Dreaming; Choose to be Alone; Go Down Easy; Unchain My Heart; Spit It Out; Crimes Against Nature; Train on the Move; Blind Willie McTell; We Don't Walk Alone.
Personnel: Barb Jungr: vocals, harmonica, mandolin; Kuljit Bhamra: percussion; Russell Churney: piano, keyboards; James Tomalin: guitar, banjo; Stan Adler: cello.