When jazz listeners think of the tablas, only a few players immediately come to mindBadal Roy, Zakir Hussain, and possibly the late Collin Walcott (from the group Oregon). Of them, Roy's resumé within jazz circles is certainly the most significant, with timeless contributions to the groups and recordings of Miles Davis (e.g. On The Corner, Big Fun ), fellow Miles band mate Dave Liebman, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, Pharoah Sanders, and clarinetist Perry Robinson, who was actually one of the first musicians Roy ran into during the late '60s after emigrating from his native Pakistan.
Roy's self-released Raga Roni, with Robinson and bassist Ed Schuller, was recorded not too long after the trio's memorable week-after-9/11 gig at the Cornelia Street Café. The tablaist treats both his tablas more like a drum kit and even percussion set than is commonly found in the more traditional manner of tabla playing. At times the session recalls Tony Scott's Eastern-influenced recordings, though the music truly crosses all music borders with Roy and Schuller's consistent funky bass lines and Robinson's occasional Jimmy Giuffre-inspired folksy mid-range playing as well as Klezmer-rooted blowing and general mastery of all ranges.
"Mountain Soup," in particular, is a splendid Eastern-influenced take on Giuffre's "Train and The River." Schuller's pizzicato contributions (of the famed Schuller familyThird Stream pioneer Gunther being his father, and very active East Coast drummer George his elder brother) complement Roy's bass tabla in an echoing fashion, while his arco playing likewise resonates the trio's meditative tones. Dave Baker, the mastermind who documented the outstanding Roy-Perry Robinson-Nana Vasconcelos collaboration from the late '70s, Kundalini (IAI, 1978), exquisitely recorded this session at Roy's home in Jersey. And with it, Raga Roni represents another chapter in jazz-inspired universal music.