All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Debashish Bhattacharya at Streamside Concerts

Debashish Bhattacharya at Streamside Concerts
Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Debashish Bhattacharya
Streamside Concerts
Arden, NC
October 10, 2015

The intimate house concert setting of Streamside Concerts was a perfect way to experience the playing of the great Hindustani slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya. Accompanied by his brother Subhasis on tabla, the pair relied upon the iTablaPro application in place of the traditional tanpura (drone) instrument. Bhattacharya demonstrated the software as he was tuning up: the name sounds like some kind of joke, but it's actually a real piece of software, and apparently quite respected as a practice tool. He opened the concert with a short talk about the India International Guitar Festival he has founded (the first one took place in January, 2015). The festival is intended as a learning and career opportunity for young musicians, a goal very much in line with the non-profit music school he also runs. Its funding is the goal of this tour.

The first set was devoted to a mesmerizing half-hour long performance of the raga Rag Megh, which means "clouds." Bhattacharya thought it suited the extremely rainy weather the Southeast has been experiencing (there has been considerable flooding, although not in the immediate vicinity). It is a raga that is traditionally performed during the rainy (monsoon) season, and is considered an evening raga, which made it doubly appropriate for the occasion. The performance followed the classic structure: an alap introduction for the guitar alone, a free exploration of the raga; a jor, which begins to develop a pulse; followed by the jhala, in which the tabla enter and establish the regular rhythmic cycle called a tala. The final ten minutes were a fast second jhala, building to an exciting intricate unison conclusion between tabla and guitar. Bhattacharya's facility with a slide is absolutely astonishing: it really has to be seen to be believed. Traditional Indian stringed instruments like the sitar achieve microtonal note ornaments by using string bending. His slide technique does the same thing by way of horizontal movement on the strings—but even at high speed there is no obvious sliding sound between notes (except occasionally when he uses it for effect), which he accomplishes by very dexterously muting the strings. The performers took a break here, allowing both performers and audience to return to the real world after the long excursion.

During the intermission Bhattacharya spoke about the unusual guitars he designed and plays. His main guitar has a top made from American spruce and a body made from Indian red cedar. It is truly hand made: the shop has no power tools. So all of the woodwork and metalwork was done using traditional hand tools. Asked about a photo showing him with a modified Gibson archtop guitar, he replied that it was a recent addition, a gift that was created by his guru, pioneer of Indian slide-guitar Brij Bhushan Kabra. It started out as a 1956 Gibson Super 400. The neck is only strong enough to support a few additional drone strings, and it has a brighter sound than the guitars he has had built. Speaking about the glass bottleneck slide he was using, he mentioned that he is also a painter, and had used glass jars as a slide before—so he knew he would like the sound.

The second half of the concert featured several shorter pieces, lighter in tone than the introductory raga. The first was in Mixolydian mode, which is commonly used in Western music as well. The performance was notable for some very fast rhythmic picking, a reminder that Bhattacharya's picking technique is just as highly developed as his slide technique. Then he switched to another of his custom instruments, a four-string slide ukulele made from koa wood. He gave an impassioned speech about the need for love in the world, and said the song he was about to play was about the unity of Hindu and Muslim religious traditions. The ukulele is a much smaller instrument than his main guitar, giving it a higher-pitched, more intimate voice.

At this point he called his student Billy Cardine (who had introduced the musicians at the beginning of the evening) up to the stage. Cardine plays Dobro, the American resonator guitar that is also played on the lap with a slide. The distinctive sound, as well as his use of high harmonics (common in Dobro playing) made an effective contrast to the Indian slide guitar, and the two musicians shared a warm camaraderie on stage. Their second tune was a light-hearted selection with something of a Sergio Leone/Spaghetti Western atmosphere. Tabla player Subhasis ended the piece with a bit of konnakkol—vocalised mnemonic syllables used to spell out Indian rhythms—in lieu of a drum solo. One last surprise to conclude a memorable concert.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Enjoy Jazz 2018 Live Reviews
Enjoy Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Jazz for all Ages Live Reviews
Jazz for all Ages
by Martin McFie
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop Live Reviews
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop
by Matt Hooke
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "Soft Machine at the Beachland Ballroom" Live Reviews Soft Machine at the Beachland Ballroom
by Matt Hooke
Published: October 29, 2018
Read "Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms" Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "Madeleine Peyroux At Freight & Salvage" Live Reviews Madeleine Peyroux At Freight & Salvage
by Walter Atkins
Published: May 25, 2018
Read "Adam Rudolph's Galaxies at The Stone" Live Reviews Adam Rudolph's Galaxies at The Stone
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 14, 2018
Read "Dave Stryker Quartet at Nighttown" Live Reviews Dave Stryker Quartet at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 24, 2018
Read "WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018" Live Reviews WDR 3 Jazzfest 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 16, 2018