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Natraj: Deccan Dance

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Jazz naturally shares much in common with the music of India and Africa. Ragas emphasize improvisation around a harmonic structure; the music of West Africa relies upon the superimposition of complementary rhythms. Lately there's been a dramatic recognition of that fact in Boston, with groups like Antigravity and Natraj drawing from both Eastern and Western traditions. On its third release, Deccan Dance, Natraj somehow manages to make a raga sound jazzy and yet at the same time tribal. The two frontmen, Phil Scarff (soprano saxophone) and Mat Maneri (violin) share composition and arrangement duties. The tunes on the record include ragas, a Ghanaian composition, and originals.

Whatever the format, the band maintains cohesiveness and a sweeping spirit of creative improvisation. And never a dull moment. My personal favorite from the record is a spontaneous midnight duet with Scarff and Maneri, which sparsely yet effectively explores improvisation around a simple harmony. Not to say that the rhythm section doesn't handle their share of the load; it's just a nice breather from an otherwise quite intense record. Maneri, who's been drawing increasing attention in free jazz circles, takes a different stance on Deccan Dance, demonstrating yet another aspect of his musical persona.


Track Listing: Kalyani; Na Yella Bo; Raga Bihag, Part 1--Vilambit; Raga Bihag, Part 2--Drut; Don't Utter; Duet; Introduction; Mukhras Not Tukras; Blue Tumbleweed.

Personnel: Phil Scarff: soprano saxophone, tamboura; Mat Maneri: electric violin; Michael Rivard: acoustic bass; Jerry Leake: percussion; Bertram Lehmann: drums, percussion.

Title: Deccan Dance | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Galloping Goat


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