He was the rhythmic center of John McLaughlin's Floating Point (Abstract Logix, 2008)an album that found the fusion guitar great exploring his decades-long interest in an east/west nexus from the electrified and harmony-centric angle of the jazz tradition, rather than the opposing angle of his longstanding and largely acoustic Shakti and Remember Shakti groups, which weighed more heavily on Indian music's linearity and polyrhythmic complexity. Now, reflecting Ranjit Barot's assimilation of the fusion and progressive rock music that he heard growing up with his inescapable roots at a similar mitochondrial level, Bada Boom further clarifies the Indian drummer's simpatico with McLaughlin. The two artists clearly share common ground, but come to it from near-diametrically opposite ends of the broadest possible spectrum of musical and cultural upbringing.
Bada Boom may be Barot's debut as a leader, but reflects his lengthy and busy career as session player, film score composer and producer in his native India. Just like Floating Point, Bada Boom brings together a group of musicians from around the world. Here, however, Barot collects a much larger international cast, includingalong with well over a dozen Indian musiciansAmerican guitarist Wayne Krantz, British saxophonist Tim Garland, Scottish pianist Gwilym Simcock, Turkish-born/American resident keyboardist Aydin Essen...and, of course, McLaughlin, who guests on "Singularity," as appropriately named a statement of intent as an album opener can be. As with much of Barot's writing, it's episodic and cinematic, covering considerable ground in its relatively brief eight minutes. Moving from visceral, 9/8, introductory riffdriven by bassist Matthew Garrison and Barot's thundering kitto airy interlude, with Garrison delivering a brief but stunning solo, Barot's konnakol (Indian vocal percussion) shifts the song's gears, yet again, into a groove-laden middle section, where solos from veena player Punya Srinivas and pianist Harmeet Manseta suggest both polarity and commonality to be found amongst Indian musicians mining both ends of the east/west continuum. Returning to the initial theme might seem predictable, but only until a staggering closing segment, where McLaughlin engages in some incendiary free play with Barot, makes clear that nothing is as it seems.
Similarly, nylon-string guitarist Amit Heri and flautist Palakkad Sreeram turn the beginning of "T = 0" into a pastoral contrast to "Singularity"'s burning intensity, even when The Nirvana String Section, Barot's soaring vocals and Dominique di Piazza's fretless bass expand the sonic landscape. But, again, it's wonderfully deceptive, as the time then doubles and a raga-informed theme emerges, with Di Piazza magically combining pulse and high octane melodic foil. Soprano saxophonist Garland and electric mandolinist U. Rajesh solo with, respectively, fierce bebop chops and almost impossible, lightning-fast dexterity, leading to a whammy bar-driven solo from guitarist Marc Guillermont over a culminating combination of this traditional composition's two movements that illustrates Barot's astute arrangement skills.
And that's only one-third of Bada Boom's far-reaching combination of thoughtful writing, outstanding performances, and a cultural purview that goes beyond the more obvious mix of Indian tradition and western jazz interests. At once exhilaratingly cathartic and transcendentally beautiful, Bada Boom is an ambitious debutfusion at the deepest, and truest, sense of the word.
Singularity; T = 0; Revolutions (In memory of Charlie Mariano); Supernova (in memory of "Abbaji" Ustad Allarakha); Dark Matter; Origin.
Ranjit Barot: drums, vocals (1, 2, 4), konnakol (1, 5), keyboard programming (1, 2), keyboards (3, 6), lead vocals (6); John McLaughlin: guitar (1); Matthew Garrison: bass (1); Mattias IA Eklundh: guitar (1); Palakkad Sreeram: VL1 physical modeling synthesizer (1, 2), flute (2), vocals (5); Harmeet Manseta: keyboards (1-3), piano solo (1), piano (4), electric piano (5); Sanjay Divecha: guitar (1), acoustic guitars (3); Punya Srinivas: veena (1); The Nirvana String Section (1, 2, 4); Tim Garland: soprano saxophone (2), tenor saxophone (4), saxophones (5), flute (5); Dominique Di Piazza: bass (2); U. Rajesh: electric mandolin (2); Marc Guillermont: guitar (2); Amit Heri: acoustic guitar (2); Pete Lockett: percussion (2); Aydin Essen: keyboards (3); Sridhar Parthasarthy: Indian percussion (3), djembe (3), percussion arrangement (3), percussion (6); Taufique Qureshi: djembe (3), percussion (3, 4), vocal textures (4); Suzanne D'mello: lead vocals (3), backing vocals (3); Samantha Edwards: backing vocals (3); Thomson Andrews: backing vocals (3); Leon DeSouza: backing vocals (3); Thiru Moorthy: nadaswaram (3); Zakir Hussain; table (4); U Srinivas: electric mandolin (4); Elie Afif: upright bass (4); Chandana Bala: vocal solo (4); Paras Nath: flute (4); Gwilym Simcock: piano (5); Mohini Dey: bass (5); Dhruv Ghanekar: guitar (5); Tim Garland's Underground Orchestra Horn Section (5); Scott Kinsey: keyboards (6); Wayne Krantz: guitar (6); Nicolas Fiszman: bass (6); Kirti Sagathia: vocals (6); Neuman Pinto: backing vocals (6); Bianca Gomes: backing vocals (6).