123

Nishlyn Ramanna: A Thought

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Nishlyn Ramanna: A Thought You've got to admire people with drive. Still only 22 years old, British drummer Jon Opstad has emerged in the space of a few years as a drummer, bandleader, producer and owner of his own label, New Canvas Records. New Canvas' first release was his own debut, last year's Still Picture—reflecting Opstad's interest in Norwegian music in general, and the German ECM label in particular. From his quintet's unhurried approach to developing Opstad's impressionistic compositions to the austere artwork, the influences were clear. But given the usual characteristic brashness of youth, Opstad's patience, economy of style, and attention to building a group sound were refreshing.

For the label's second release Opstad takes an altered role as producer and percussionist on South African pianist Nishlyn Ramanna's debut. Much of Ramanna's writing for A Thought comes from his tenure in the 1990s South African group Mosaic—a quintet that featured flute, piano, guitar, bass, and tabla. Here, however, his eight compositions receive a sparer treatment that makes A Thought a different record from Still Picture to be sure, but one that nevertheless builds on its predecessor's stylistic aesthetic.

Back from Still Picture is Jon's seventeen year-old brother James on fretless bass. He still evokes images of '70s Eberhard Weber, notably on "The Beautiful Room is Empty, which, despite its Latin leanings, manages to feel like a restrained version of Weber's Colours band. Throughout the disc he demonstrates an ability to create firm, harmonically anchored bass lines that also skirt the edges of counterpoint.

Raising the visibility of A Thought a notch—especially on the British scene—Opstad has recruited Stan Sulzmann, a well-known saxophonist/flautist who's been a hand-in-glove fit for trumpet legend Kenny Wheeler's melancholy style on records spanning over three decades. He has a remarkable ability to inject hints of unpredictability into relatively straightforward pieces like "Hymn to Him without tarnishing their lyrical innocence.

Ramanna's writing tends to simpler forms. But the payoff from playing with a sympathetic group that knows how to let it breathe is that his songs become gently compelling. The lengthy opener, "Quintessentially, is the most ECM-like tune of the disc, harkening back to albums including the Jan Garbarek/Art Lande duet record Red Lanta and the Arcade-era John Abercrombie Quartet. Ramanna's solo style makes great use of subtle suggestion and the development of slowly cascading lines that are strangely visceral, but in a gentle way. Opstad continues to approach the kit from a similar angle as Jon Christensen, where pulses are often implied—although at times he locks in more firmly with brother James than on Still Picture.

A sense of European impressionism imbues the majority of A Thought, except for its closer, the lightly swinging "Oatlands Road Blues. This piece shows another aspect to Ramanna, but unfortunately it alters the more consistent ambience of the rest of the disc. Still, on the whole, A Thought's understated elegance is a fine introduction to Nishlyn Ramanna, and confirmation that Jon Opstad's musical instincts are already bearing more fruit.


Track Listing: Quintessentially; Hymn to Him; A Thought (solo); The Beautiful Room is Empty; N3 East; Song for My Sister; A Thought; Pisces; Oatlands Road Blues.

Personnel: Nishlyn Ramanna: piano; Stan Sulzmann: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute; James Opstad: fretless bass; Jon Opstad: drums, percussion.

Title: A Thought | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: New Canvas Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Such A Sky CD/LP/Track Review Such A Sky
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31 CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Magia" CD/LP/Track Review Magia
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 6, 2016
Read "Alchemist" CD/LP/Track Review Alchemist
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "Atrium" CD/LP/Track Review Atrium
by James Nadal
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Manovuotometro" CD/LP/Track Review Manovuotometro
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "An Eclipse Of Images" CD/LP/Track Review An Eclipse Of Images
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 1, 2016
Read "Hark The Herald" CD/LP/Track Review Hark The Herald
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 6, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.