The recipient of a Fulbright / Nehru Scholarship, guitarist and composer Alex Pinto
chose to study and teach for a year at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) in Tamil Nadu, India. The Seattle native quickly made his way into the burgeoning Indian jazz scene, gathering New Delhi-based drummer Tarun Balani
and bassist Abhinav Khokhar
to form a potent and limber trio. Their new EP, titled All India Permit
fuses jazz-based rhythmic aesthetics with compositional concepts derived from Carnatic music. Their refreshing attitude is summed up by the quote from the top of Pinto's website: "Say No To Bollywood." Indeed, they do! "Karnakata," the EP's third and final track, is also its most electric and visceral. Anchored by Khokhar's insistent 6/8 and Balani's crackling drums, Pinto's melody erupts, combining convoluted bebopping twists and turns with emotionally-charged melismatic flourishes. I almost hate to say it, but Pinto's aggressive, fuzz-laden approach on "Karnakata" reminded me, a tiny bit, of John McLaughlin
's early work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra
. Mind you, Pinto and McLaughlin are very different players, coming at music from different parts of India at very
different times. Yet, there's something pleasantly familiar about the rockish energy, gusto and fearlessness with which Pinto ventures into this new terrain. The rest of the EP is absolutely first-rate. "Camilla," no less energized than "Karnakata," brims with warm lyricism, and "To Jodhpur" paints a musical picture of a journey, by rail, across the deserts of Rajasthan.