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Deep Energy Orchestra: Playing with Fire

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Deep Energy Orchestra is unique in its musical repertoire, approach, and style, all of which burn light and heat into their first live recording Playing with Fire. DEO's lead voice comes equally from progressive guitar pot-stirrer and King Crimson mainstay Trey Gunn; Carnatic percussionist V. Selvaganish, a member of John McLaughlin's transcendent group Remember Shakti; electric violinist Radhika Iyer; and bassist Jason Everett, who wrote many of these tunes; plus a classical string ensemble.

Playing with Fire sort of hovers over and moves between two camps—progressive rock and progressive raga—of progressive jazz. Its gemstone is "Resolve/Improv/Caravan," a twenty-minute journey through outer and inner space that spans an encyclopedia of styles and sounds: Everett's bass stomps and glides behind the strings' snakecharming melody, then steps out front to continue oscillating between mellow and raging, and later recites a floating tone poem; Selvaganish at first plays but then breaks into vocalizing his tabla part; Gunn sears your ears with his closing solo; and all this comes together, drifts apart, and comes back together under the canopy of classical violin.

I'm not familiar with every stage of their fifty-year career but several floating moments on Playing with Fire sound and feel like King Crimson, such as the lead and ensemble strings worshipfully singing of "The Return"; and Gunn's buzzing guitar bending "Mysterious World" from Western to Eastern sound, strongly echoing Lark's Tongues in Aspic (1973, Island/Atlantic). In addition, Gunn beautifully weaves two acoustic guitar verses of "Amazing Grace" into the closing "Honor."

Composed by guitarist John McLaughlin for his reformative reunion Remember Shakti (1999, Verve/Polygram) "Lotus Feet" is another tight thematic fit, a contemplative meditation organically that grows like branches from a deeply rooted vine, with Iyer's lead violin sounding exceptionally beautiful, almost romantic, and definitely daring. Playing with Fire was made possible by the Jack Straw Cultural Center Artist Residency Award.

Track Listing: The Return; Awakening; Mysterious World; The River; Lotus Feet; Resolve/Improv/Caravan; Honor/Amazing Grace.

Personnel: Jason "Mister E" Everett: seven-string electric fretless bass, six-string acoustic bass; Aleida Gehrels: viola; Trey Gunn: Warr Guitar; Phil Hirschi: cello; Radhika Iyer: seven-string electric violin; Rachel Nesvig: violin; Anil Prasad: tabla; V. Selvaganesh: drum set, kanjira.

Title: Playing with Fire | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: 7D Media

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