Alto saxophonist Dave Pietro is a heck of a bop player who, with his recent projects, has integrated world music and culture into his oeuvre. The Chakra Suite is a concept album that uses the seven bodily energy centers, or chakras, that are central to Indian medicine, as an organizational framework. These move in ascending order from base/natural to the more supreme/ethereal, and the ambiance of each tune is a musical abstraction of each chakra within Pietro's accessible but innovative Brazilian/Indian jazz setting.
While the suite begins with the back-to-nature jungle feel of "Muladhara" and ends with the free flowing "Sahasrara," Pietro mixes up the order of the in-between chakras to vary the album's flow. Many of these are overtly sensual and the instrumentation most notably Pietro's use of an F-alto saxophone with its luscious upper register, guitarist Rez Abbasi's very cool electric sitar and the Brazilian/Indian percussion stylings of Todd Islerratchets up the hotness factor of the music significantly.
The pulsating rhythms set up by bassist Johannes Wiedenmueller and drummer Adam Cruz join with Abbasi's electric sitar and Isler's Indian vocal percussion to turn "Vishuddha" into a wonderfully entrancing jazzy raga while pianist Gary Versace is exquisite on the beautifully Brazilian-kissed rhythms of "Ajna." Pietro adroitly moves among his various saxophones and does not sacrifice his well-rounded tone for versatility. He soars on soprano during "Manipura," featuring a fiery sax/Indian percussive duet, uses a C-Melody sax to infuse "Anahata" with a deeply exotic soulfulness and combines alto with Versace's accordion and Cruz's dynamic drums to turn "Svadhisthana" into Brazilian bop. With The Chakra Suite, Pietro has produced what is one of the finest jazz/world fusion albums in recent memory.
Personnel: Dave Pietro: alto, C-Melody and soprano sax; Rez Abbasi: acoustic, electric and sitar guitar; Gary Versace: piano, accordion; Johannes Weidenmueller: bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Todd Isler: percussion, vocals