Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Trilok Gurtu: Trilok Gurtu: Spellbound

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
In a 35-year career that's stretched from Oregon and saxophonists Jan Garbarek and Charlie Mariano, to violinist Shankar and guitarists John McLaughlin and Nguyen Le, Trilok Gurtu has established a very specific talent. Few kit drummers are as adept as Gurtu on tabla and the Indian konnakol vocal percussion tradition; conversely, few tablaists/konnakol experts are as capable as Gurtu on kit. Gurtu's entire career has been predicated on cross-genre boundary busting that's resulted in a small but distinctive discography, from the instrumental (but still Indo-centric) jazz of Crazy Saints (CMP, 1993), with guest guitarist Pat Metheny and keyboardist Joe Zawinul, to the Indo-pop-meets-Afrobeat of The Beat of Love (Blue Thumb, 2001), produced by Wally Badarou (Talking Heads, Level 42, Robert Palmer) and featuring where a number of singers.

In many ways, Spellbound brings Gurtu's career full circle, with 1988's "Usfret" (CMP), a stunning debut that—with guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner (with whom Gurtu was playing, at the time, in Oregon) and, most importantly, trumpeter and early mentor Don Cherry—announced an artist whose compositional and band leading talent were clearly equal to his already inimitable abilities as a performer. Spellbound is, beyond the obvious tribute to legendary trumpeters including, alongside Cherry, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie (all represented by their own compositions and Gurtu's original tributes), a celebration of the instrument itself, with guests including Norway's Nils Petter Molvaer, Lebanese-born/Paris-resident Ibrahim Maalouf, Italy's Paolo Fresu, Turkey's Hasan Gözetlik and Germany's Matthias Schriefl and Matthias Höfs. Superb trumpeters all, their participation also demonstrates Gurtu's astute talent for choosing the right trumpeter for the right material.

Surely any one of these impressive players could augment Gurtu's core trio on a medley of Davis' ethereal title track to A Tribute to Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970) and more upbeat "Black Satin," from On the Corner (Columbia, 1972). Still, Molvær is clearly an inspired choice. The Norwegian trumpeter's own music, heard most recently on Baboon Moon (Sula, 2011), has always been a cultural mélange of otherworldly atmospherics, thundering grooves and fiery rock-outs; here, he engages Gurtu in an incendiary duo where the virtuosic percussionist combines tabla and drum kit so seamlessly as to suggest two players, not just one. Eschewing imitation, Molvær's tone is his own—warm, buttery and anything but brash—clearly demonstrating that he may not perform this kind of music often, but it's not a matter of ability, it's a matter of choice.

Most trumpeters get two tunes each: one by Gurtu, like the upbeat and curiously funky "Cuckoo," where Maalouf's brighter tone perfectly suits the percussionist's more buoyant yet thematically knotty writing, and Cherry's "Universal Mother," where the trumpeter's Middle Eastern roots come to the fore in a set-defining intro to an even more joyous song driven by Gurtu's kit work, bassist Jonathan Cuniado's unshakable yet pliant anchor and keyboardist Tulung Tirpan's busy yet never superfluous support. Molvær's understated approach dovetails perfectly with Gurtu's title track—dedicated to Miles Davis but, with Tirpan's synths and a bubbling pulse, feeling more like something from the Zawinul Syndicate songbook.

In recent years, Gurtu has driven many of his recordings with concepts, from the large ensemble-driven 21 Spices (Birdjam, 2011) to his return to roots on Remembrance (EmArcy, 2002). A 5/4-driven look at Davis' "All Blues" (featuring up-and-coming trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on the first solo) or a version of Gillespie's "Manteca," transported to Gurtu's universe through a mix of Gözetlik's expressive playing, an idiosyncratically revised but still memorable theme and some carefully placed konnakol, might seem like sacrilege to purists, but to Gurtu, and a fan base out in droves at his recent ELBJazz Festival performance in Hamburg, Germany (where he currently resides)—it's clearly all just music.

And good music it is, too. With Spellbound, Gurtu has delivered one of his best records to date, a compelling marriage of his own cultural heritage with a jazz tradition clearly open to the pan-cultural musings of each and every one of his superb guest trumpeters—and his equally impressive trio mates.

Track Listing: Improvisation Live: Don Cherry & Trilok Gurtu; Manteca; Jack Johnson/Black Satin; Cuckoo; Berchidda; Like Popcorn; Haunting; Universal Mother; Spellbound; All Blues; Cosmic Roundabout/Brown Rice; Thank You by Don Cherry.

Personnel: Don Cherry: trumpet (1), voice (12); Hasan Gözetlik: trumpet (2); Trilok Gurtu: percussion (1-11), drums (2-11), vocal (2, 4), additional keyboard (2, 5, 6, 9), tumbura (3), tabla (3, 5, 6, 10, 11); Tulug Tirpan: keyboards (2-6, 8, 9, 11), piano (7, 10) ; Jonathan Cunaido: bass (2-11): Nitin Shankar: additional percussion (2, 6); Nils Petter Molvær: trumpet (3, 9); Carlo Cantini: additional keyboards (3); Ibrahim Maalouf: trumpet (4, 8); Paolo Fresu: trumpet (5, 11), effects (5, 11); Matthias Schriefl: trumpet (6); Matthias Höfs: trumpet (7), doublebell trumpet (10, second solo); Helene Traub: english horn (7); Jakob Janeschitz-Kriegel: cello (7); Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (10, first solo).

Title: Trilok Gurtu: Spellbound | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Moosicus Gmbh


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: December 9, 2017
Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Motel Shot: Expanded Edition" Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read "Phish: St. Louis '93" Extended Analysis Phish: St. Louis '93
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon" Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!" Extended Analysis Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
by John Kelman
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word" Extended Analysis Jazz Is Phsh: He Never Spoke A Word
by Doug Collette
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Grateful Dead: Cornell '77" Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!