Several factors make bassist Harish Raghavan's debut album remarkable. The first and most striking is the sense of extreme urgency in the tone of the compositions as well as the disjointed manner with which the instruments search for common ground in and around each other. Another factor can be found in the understated melodic motifs whose arcs sometimes stretch over the entire duration of a tune. Melody in general is critical to the album's appeal. Most of the interplay and compositional foundation is based on melodic ideas rather than harmonic ones.
Four of the bassist's earliest compositions for this quintet shape the head of the record in a suite-like fashion. Prefaced by a spicy bass solo for an intro, "Newe" opens with heavy, chordal bass-strokes and excited rhythmic drum work. The saxophone howls out the first notes of the melodic head before the vibraphone joins in unison. Piano, saxophone and vibes trade lines to jumpy bass accents and drum workouts until another small section in melodic unison leads back to the main theme. All of this is presented within the frame of rapid 6/8 time. Follow-up "Los Angels" differs from its predecessor in almost every way. A slower pulse gives way for sound and atmosphere to develop and drums and bass to place syncopations more carefully and to more dramatic effect. Pianist Micah Thomas is given more space to harmonically unfold in the beginning sequence of "Sangeet" before the second half of the piece cuts back to quicker and more narrow interplay between vibraphone and saxophone.
It would be easy to group this collection of songs into faster and slower ones or darker and lighter ones. However, that wouldn't do these meticulously wrought compositions justice. Each track has its place on the album for different reasons and each instrumentalist shines on the various songs with different virtues. More extensive cuts, such as "Seaminer" or "Shift," combine a number of divers elements and approaches to form a coherent entity that melds improvisation and composition in a unique fashion. Their elaborate length leads to progressive structures featuring ferocious solo passages by all involved. Vibraphonist Joel Ross is highlighted in the mix and forms a fitting sonic counterpart to the piano. Both players go about interpreting their harmonic roles in very different manners and thereby create an intriguing friction.
Calls for Action is an accomplished debut outing. It's a more than promising statement to what Raghavan's future might hold for today's stream of jazz music and sets him apart from many of his peers. At the same time the album blends right in to the canon of contemporary jazz highlights from a younger generation (Scopes or Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens' In Common, for instance) which has found a home over at Whirlwind Recordings.
Intro; Newe; Los Angeles; Sangeet; I'll Go and Come Back; Caged; Seaminer; The Meters;
4560 Round Trip; Shift; Lunatico; Junior; Calls For Action; Seven; AS.
Harich Raghavan: bass; Joel Ross: vibraphone; Kweku Sumbry: drums; Micah Thomas;
Immanuel Wilkins: saxophone.
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