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If cutting-edge music presages the course that society will take, then this release from Trio Tarana indicates that at some point we will be heading down the right path. Percussionist Ravish Momin leads a trio of musicians with diverse ethnic backgrounds with the stated purpose "of sharing their unique Asian-American musical concept and identity with different audiences, worldwide."
With Five Nights, recorded live at Washington DC's beautiful Freer Gallery of Art amidst their excellent Asian collections, the band has exceeded its aim by producing a session that can serve as an example of cultural harmony to all people. The instrumentation is string-based but has Momin's startling North Indian percussion at its heart. The combination of Jason Kao Hwang's violin with Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz's bass and oud exudes a wide sound palette that conveys lovely understatement and graceful lines, along with blistering solos.
Blumenkranz, well-known for his bass mastery on multiple downtown projects, also shines here on oud, while Hwang exploits both his violin's sonority and range. Opener "Dai Genyo" is a long mood-inducing piece that stretches out to add Indian tinge to Japanese taiko. The enticing and self-explanatory "Peace for Kabul" presents a vision of harmony as oud speaks above Momin's jazzy hand percussion, entreating violin to join in a harmonious duet that builds to a thrilling conclusion.
"Tehrah" sets up with a somewhat quirky rhythm, Hwang's violin singing out flute-like until the deafening silence as Momin's drums drop out, becomes a beautiful backdrop for both oud and violin to engage in an elegant exchange of timbre. The fullness of the sound is extraordinary, due in major part to the exceptional way in which Blumenkranz is able to use his oud with Momin's various percussive instruments for depth.
Momin is a percussionist with prodigious chops and endurance. He remains inventive throughout as he both propels and lays back, allowing each member to take their turn at setting up the rhythm. "Gyarah" has Blumenkranz initially on bass, teaming with percussion for an unconventional rhythm section as Hwang totally explores the line, seemingly turning his instrument inside out in invitation to Blumenkranz, who then follows suit. "Gathering Song" closes as a synchronous trio statement with breathtaking percussion work and drum/oud blending.
Track Listing: Dai Geny; Peace For Kabul; Tehrah; Gyarah; Gathering Song.
Personnel: Ravish Momin: drums, percussion; Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: oud, bass.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.