In a fastly widening global prospective, we must remind ourselves that us humans have more in common than being divided by differences in culture, race or ethnicity. "Southern Brothers" well emplifies this, first with its title, referring to Southern India, where Gopalnath and Srinivasan are from, and for Newton, where he spent his summers with his grandparents in the American South. Both geographical areas have rich musical cultures. It is surprising for Western audiences to learn that the music of India in which they are familiar with via Ravi Shankar is called Hindustrani music popular in Northern India. However, in Southern India, Karnatak music is played and has equal stature to that of its northern counterpart. It is new to Western audiences, but has been increasingly been spread from interest in "world music." Karnatak originated from the ancient Dravidians, and revolves around fixed formats. It is hard to see why its structured framework has appealed to jazz musicians, as improvisation is what makes jazz evolve. Yet the elements from both genres mix together like complimentarily ingredients in a tossed salad.
Each piece traces elements from Karnatak and jazz, never sounding competitive, nor there is not even a hint awkwardly playing in creating space and solos. On the first piece, Gopalnath starts like a wandering spirit in the wilderness, like John the Baptist preparing the path for who is to arrive. Newton enters, reaffirming the beauty he "sees." Gopalnath, pleased at the affirmation, sets to push the pace, but is never hurried. Newton makes quick steps at one point, like a person crying and whirling at once. Gopalnath joins the pace, then Newton duets as if crying outloud at once.
The second piece has Gopalnath starting like a lone tickle of water, then Newton continues evolving into a running stream. Srinivasan's percussion is like that of rocks bouncing downstream a river. As the music churns, with Newton's flutes cascades as Srinivasan pours on the rhythm dance. Then Gopalnath takes over Newton's lead, as if the sax is the wandering stream, cutting channels. Then the baton is relayed back to Newton pouring dynamic fluid lines. Again, Gopalnath picks up the baton, moving at a slightly quicker tempo. Gradually Newton joins in at the end to support his partners.
The last piece contains a motif with a whiff of blues Rahsaan Roland Kirk style. Newton and Gopalnath work into the motif, expanding like stars pouring into a newly formed universe. At one point, Gopalnath's sax cries like a lone soul lost in the madness of urbania.