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Karavika: Sunrise

Dan McClenaghan By

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What are the career choices for a classically trained musician? It's not sitting in an orchestra for violinist Trina Basu and cellist Amali Premawardhana. Instead, they chose the path of creating their own Indo-Western chamber ensemble, Karavika, to explore the sounds of Indian ragas and film songs, along with their original composition, "Sunrise," that blends two different Carnatic (South Indian) ragas.

The co-leaders are joined in their debut CD, Sunrise, by tablaist Advait Shah, who pulls the sound in an Eastern lean, and bassist Perry Wortman, who gives the music a Western foundation. The results are a gorgeous contrast between the long, sinewy, singing lines of the violin and cello and the tabla's intricate burble and pop punctuation, riding the warm pizzicato heartbeat of the bass. It is a liquid and organic brew that sounds inevitable, as if it's existed forever. The music displays a compelling simplicity/complexity dynamic in its exploration of folk melodies and classical stylings, with a mix of classical arrangement, inspired playfulness and soaring improvisation.

"On the Wing," opens with Shah's frenetic, ringing percolation. The strings join in, a sensual dance full of spirited rhythms. "Little Road Songs" begins with a lilting plucking of strings that segues into a gorgeously swaying melody. "Song That Floats on the Breeze" incorporates a drone backdrop with an elastic melody, while "The Dancer" features Basu, and then Premawardhana, singing mysteriously over a simple repeated bass figure.

Sitarist Ravi Shankar introduced young American audiences to the music of India in the late 1960s, thanks in large part to The Beatles' George Harrison and his interest in the sounds of the Subcontinent. Move to the new millennium, and there's alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and pianist Vijay Iyer exploring their heritages by introducing Indian rhythms and textures into their jazz offerings. With its debut recording, Karavika explores its cultural roots in India, Sri Lanka and North America, fashioning a dynamic sonic blend of uncommon mesmeric beauty.

Track Listing: On the Wing; Little Road Song; Song That Floats on the Breeze; The Dancer; Moonbeam; Sunrise.

Personnel: Trina Basu: violin; Amali Premawardhana: cello; Perry Wortman: bass; Advait Shah: tabla.

Title: Sunrise | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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