Indo-American forms of jazz have become more common over the years, but plenty of people who work in this arena have little personal connection to this hybrid form of music. Guitarist Alex Pinto is an exception. Pinto's paternal lineage leads to Karnataka, in southwestern India, and his worldly upbringing contributes to his unique sound. While the guitarist was born in the Washington, D.C. area, he spent part of his childhood in Poland and Russia, where his father was posted by his employerthe World Bank. He spent his college years at Montreal's McGill University, and eventually relocated to California, where he hooked up with tenor saxophonist Jon Armstrong and bassist Dave Tranchina, while they were all studying at the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia.
Both of these former classmates join Pinto on this East-meets-West journey, tapping into modern forms of jazz and Indian accouterments in a natural manner. Pinto begins with a trip through a rhythmic maze ("1 By 4"), and his edgy, clustered chords fill in the middle ground as drummer Jaz Sawyer drives the band on their journey. "Chai Kinda Day" features droning episodes of music, which serve as an introduction and a platform for Sawyer's dancing drum work, but a sunnier outlook surrounds Armstrong's saxophone.
"Outed" is all about the chemistry between Pinto and Armstrong, as both men interweave their single note lines, deliver tight unison passages and solo with great clarity and energy over the odd-metered grooves. Pinto uses a bait and switch approach on "Two Pictures Of Love," as he introduces the song by providing an ominous aural cloud that gives way to a calm, country-influenced sound. This number benefits from constant communication between Pinto, Tranchina and Sawyer, and Armstrong's arrival helps to intensify the emotions in the music as the album passes the halfway point.
While "Refresh" provides plenty of thrills, the final two tracks really provide a broader picture of Pinto's tonal palette. The guitarist moves from relative calm to fusion laced fury during his solo on "Do It Now," and he places a tiny hint of twang into his tone on the album-closing "CIA," which features some gritty saxophone work from Armstrong. Inner State is a rhythmically vital, modern jazz album that's constructed on a global stage, and introduces a guitar talent and composer with great promise.
By 4; Chai Kinda Day; Outed; Two Pictures Of Love; Refresh; Do It Now; CIA.
Alex Pinto: guitar; Jon Armstrong: tenor saxophone; Jaz Sawyer: drums; Dave Tranchina: bass.