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Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala: A Garland Of Ragas

Mark Sullivan By

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Percussionist Adam Rudolph performed and recorded extensively with World Music originator Yusef Lateef from 1988-2013, and has performed with trumpeters Don Cherry, Jon Hassell, and Wadada Leo Smith, among others. He became a composer after being inspired by Cherry (also one of World Music's originators) while staying at his home. In the Go: Organic Orchestra he has developed a remarkable improvisational conducting style. The Orchestra has been active for nearly twenty years; their first recording was Go: Organic Orchestra: 1 (Meta Records, 2002).

The scores are a mixture of Matrices and Cosmograms (which are based on different interval systems and patterns), Ostinatos of Circularity—traditionally notated music which is cued by Rudolph as conductor, providing a musical link between the interval patterns and rhythms—and additional through composed music that can be incorporated into the texture. He uses 21 simple hand signals in various combinations to direct the path taken by the orchestra. Go does not have a fixed membership: Rudolph regularly conducts residencies with a wide variety of players. Participants are sent a score, along with instructions about the hand signals and how to prepare.

This double CD includes a number of players experienced in playing with Go, plus the participation of the Brooklyn Raga Massive, a group based in traditional Indian classical music but not bound by its conventions. Their recording of American composer Terry Riley's minimalist milestone In C (Northern Spy Records, 2017) is one proof of that. The 40-member orchestra here has ten Indian instruments (including sitar, violin, bansuri flute and percussion); five flutes; four reeds; seven strings; four brass; four rhythm section instruments (including guitar and electric bass); four percussion (including a Batá drum ensemble); plus two special guests.

As the title implies, Indian classical raga provides the basis for the pitch structure. "Mousa Azure" opens the album with a drone, but immediately takes a slight detour with the vocals and sintir of Gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun, who has collaborated with Rudolph for over 30 years. The accompaniment is rich in rhythm, with flutes and insistent string stabs. The Raga Massive initially takes the lead on "Rotations," originally recorded by Rudolph's smaller band Moving Pictures on Glare of the Tiger (Meta Records, 2017), led by Abhik Mukherjee's sitar, Bala Skandan's mridangam and Sameer Gupta's tabla. It develops into a swampy groove reminiscent of the Miles Davis fusion sessions that employed Indian instruments in the ensemble (with Stephen Haynes' trumpet taking the Miles role.

The Yoruba Batá drum ensemble is another foundational element, first highlighted on "Ecliptic," and later heard alone on the introduction to "Dialectic." "Savannahs" opens with meterless alap solos from Arun Ramamurthy (violin) and Ivan Barenboim (Bb clarinet)—plus colorful accompaniment by Mia Theodoratus (harp)—before launching into a hypnotic vamp. "Glare of the Tiger" features Marco Capelli 's overdriven fusion guitar solo, accompanied by dramatic string accents. "Seven Pearls" has a horn theme that briefly recalls Billy Strayhorn's "Take the "A" Train" (the signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra): further evidence of the broad stylistic range here. "Africa 21" (previously on Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures (Flying Fish Records, 1992; reissued by Meta Records) delivers on the Afrobeat funk promised by the title. It is nearly the ecstatic conclusion to the session, followed by the brief coda "Gone To Earth," featuring Neel Murgai's unearthly overtone singing.

Quite a mix here: many players and many stylistic influences. But the dominant impression is one of unity. Despite the potentially unpredictable mix of composition and improvisation, the music goes from strength to strength, a testament to Rudolph's improvisational conducting technique and to this wonderful group of musicians. The "organic" part of the name is very well earned.

Track Listing: CD 1: Mousa Azure; Rotations; Ecliptic; Savannahs; Shantha; Wandering Star; Ascent To Now; Lamentations; Dialectic; Thirteen Moons. CD 2: Glare of The Tiger; Reflective; Seven Pearls; We Grieve; Chakawali; Turiya; Syntactic Journey; Sunset Lake; Africa 21; Gone To Earth.

Personnel: Jay Ganhi: bansura; Arun Ramamurthy: violin; Trina Basu: violin; Samarth Nagarkar: vocal; Neel Murgai: rhythm sitar, overtone singing; Sameer Gupta: table; David Ellenbogen: electric rhythm guitar; AbhikMukherjee: sitar; Bala Skandan: mridangam; Mari Tanaka: tanpura; Kaoru Watanabe: flute, fue, noh kan; Michael Gentile: c flute; Sylvain Leroux: chromatic tambin, tambin, c flute; Ze Luis: flutes; Mariano Gil: bass flute;Avram Fefer: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Sean Sonderegger: reeds; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Ivan Barenboim: b flat clarinet; Charles Burnham: violin; Julianne Carney Chung: violin; Sana Nagano: violin; Gwen Laster: violin; Richard Carr: violin; Stephanie Griffin: violin; Leco R4eis: contrabass; Graham Hayes: cornet, flugelhorn, kudu horn, bamboo vaccine; Stephen Hayes: cornet, flugelhorn, solo alto, pocket trumpet; didgeridoo, conch, kudu horn; Peter Zumma: trombone, didgeridoo, conch, kudu horn; Libby Schwartz: French horn; Mia Theodoratus: harp; Marco Cappelli: guitars; Alexis Marcelo: keyboards; Damon Banks: electric bass; Harris Eisenstadt: bata (iya, itoltele, okonkolo); Rogerio Baccato: caxixi, mineiro, temple blocks, bells, wood box surdo; Hamid Drake: drum kit, okonkolo; Adam Rudolph: iya, itolele; Hassan Hakmoun: sinter, vocal; Abderahim Hakmoun: qarqaba, vocal.

Title: Ragmala: A Garland Of Ragas | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Meta Records

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