Be the Change
For this, his second solo project, the astonishing Indian (and currently Bostonian) guitarist Prasanna assembles two world-class bands, going south for Flecktones Victor Wooten, saxman Jeff Coffin and drummer Derico Watson; and west (or for him, further east) for seminal fusion bassist Alphonso Johnson, drummer Ralph Humphrey and multi-instrumentalist Andy Suzuki.
Right off, "Pangaea Rising" metaphorically merges and recalls the supercontinent of world-fusion, if you will, with emerging subsections akin to its separating subcontinents. Rock riffs subsume fluttering sax, counting down the launch into Prasanna's instantly acoustic solo, rife with flawlessly executed, far-eastern inflection, effervescing as the backing rock riff cycles back in. You can envision Wooten's infectious grin as he holds it all together with seamless shifts in complex bass lines that would make other players grit their teeth. By the way, 23/4 has never grooved so hard!
"Takatakita Blues" uses sly alternation of cycling and walking bass for liquid guitar tone to play off of the melody and the solo section, with drummer Watson going stratospheric for the breakdown and ending. "Ragabop" is just that, the burning acoustic jazz track that had to be made, Alphonso's fretless bass doubling the bop head, then buoying Prasanna's acoustic ragamorphisms, which progress in orderly fashion from straight ahead and uncolored to panethnically ornamental, chockfull of slides and bends. "Grapevine" demonstrates Wooten's inventiveness as an accompanist, with Prasanna squeezing strat tone from his Les Paul. He takes occasion to fire off his loosest and most incendiary solo on the date, building to passages during which every 32nd note seems impossibly slid into and out of. Wooten even spices the mix with his now patented slap gymnastics.
"Satyam" begins with Shalini, Prasanna's wife, singing ethereally, gorgeously, life-affirmingly, the Sanskrit verses from the ancient Mundaka Upanishads , or Wisdom Bibles, of India. A prog-rock soundscape created by the power trio of Prasanna, Humphrey and Alphonso, who's at the peak of his game throughout, is supplemented by Suzuki's woodwinds, enmeshing Prasanna's commanding vocal before he throws in a Hendrixian solo for good measure. Sung in English, the lyrics mirror the Sanskrit's emphasis of living life's karma truthfully, and expand on Mahatma Gandhi's perhaps most powerful maxim: "You must be the change you wish to see in this world."
Of the program, "Satyam" and Shalini's rapturous vocal showcase "Bliss Factor" most suggest the staggering potential of this music to reach through and around the mere "jazz audience" to the rest of world's hungry listeners. Human nature becomes most profound when disparity begets commonality;when religion, custom, tradition, idealism and all manner of cultural bounty merge to reveal we are all, on some level, joyously, wondrously similar. With all the vast individuality he brings as a composer, improviser and band-member, Prasanna comes together with these two virtuoso groups of western musicians and melds seamlessly.
He doesn't just call a couple of all-star sessions so he can spread his stuff over the top. He more than creates something new-he is something new. That's where the title of the record comes in. Things are changing-east does more than meet west here'directions cease to matter. In the context of music, which so often accelerates past the progress of humans in the remainder of their endeavor, Prasanna has already transcended being a catalyst or orchestrator of change-he's become it - wherever he pops up, there it shall be. A godsend from India to us, he has, through his formidable gifts, combined with impassioned desire and commitment, arrived seemingly instantly full-blown, yet developing.
Visit Prasanna on the web at www.guitarprasanna.com .
1)Pangaea Rising, 2) Ta ka ta ki ta Blues, 3) Satyam, 4) Raga Bop, 5) The Grapevine, 6) Dharma becomes Alibama, 7) Uncensored, 8) Bliss Factor - Part I, 9) Bliss Factor - Part II, 10) Kalyani Connection (dedicated to Shawn Lane)
Prasanna - electric guitars, acoustic guitars, vocals, konnakol, tala, Alphonso Johnson - electric bass, fretless bass, acoustic bass (3,4,6,7,10), Victor Wooten - electric bass (1,2 5,9), Shalini ' vocals (3,9), Andy Suzuki - tenor saxophone, acoustic piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto flute, alto saxophone (3,6,7,9,10), Jeff Coffin - tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, alto flute (1,2,5), Ralph Humphrey ' drums (3, 4,6,7,10) Derico Watson ' drums (1,2,5,9)