Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz | 03.18

By: Joe Lang

Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz :: 03.18.10 :: Dakota Jazz Club :: Minneapolis, MN

Larry Coryell & Bombay Jazz
The realm of ethnic fusion is a slippery one. For some the experimentation manifests itself in a sole desire to be super clever. To quote Keith Jarrett:

"We hear jazz musicians dabbling in world music and American Indian music, minimalists filing as many sheets of paper as they can before they run out of 'idea,' industry reps dressed as players, players dressed as movie stars, indeed becoming movie stars... and countless 'studio' musicians reading newspapers in the control room (and getting paid handsomely for it, you might say being paid for their patience). We hear all this, but where is that voice, that original voice, that individual primal need? Where is Miles? Where is the music?"

For others, the fate is worse, the pseudo wannabe, whacked out, quasi fusion that is some sort of "musical Chernobyl whose radioactive residue that causes one to grow a third ass and a fourth nipple," to quote music writer Ilya Ratner. Then you have the third category: the "hellyeahthatissomedopeassethnicshit!" category. Place George Brooks firmly in that last bin. For the final set at their four-night stay at Minneapolis' Dakota Jazz Club, under the banner of "Larry Coryell's Bombay Jazz" - Brooks, Coryell, Ronu Majumdar (bansuri flute) and Aditya Kalyanpur (tabla) - proceeded to serve up a sonic concoction of supreme speed, agility and musicality that brought forth equal influence from the busy streets of New York City as it did Bombay, India.

George Brooks by Sasha Svet / from
Ordinarily, a bandleader wouldn't have a "side man" call the shots but when the side man happens to be George Brooks, who has done more for East/West fusion than anyone in the 21st century, it's a safe assumption Brooks will be steering things to a strong degree. Sure, Coryell has worked with artists from both North and South including Dr. L. Subramaniam as well as subbing for John Mclaughlin in the legendary Shakti, but it is Brooks who has actually studied Hindustani music and taken the time to found countless fusion projects with his Indian brethren.

So, it was fitting that the concert kicked off with Brooks' original "McCoy," a tribute to the great McCoy Tyner. The intro was reminiscent of an Indian classical concert with a rubato statement from the melody players before breaking down into a blistering unison line in 11. Immediately, the group brought to mind the legendary (aforementioned) Shakti with its groove in 6/8 time, but it was Coryell and Brooks' interactions that allowed the group to go further into harmonic jazz territory unlike the original fusion super-group.

The second piece was a bit of a dagger in the heart of any purist. In Hindustani music ragas are performed based on the time of day, or even time of year. To go against it, in a way, is to go against some of the essence of the music. So to hear the group launch into a composition in Bhairavi, a morning raga, it was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless the alap (unaccompanied solo) from Majumdar with support from Coryell was tasty as one could expect and the interplay continued on at a furious tempo.

Larry Coryell
After switching to electric guitar, Coryell took the group through his own unannounced piece off of the band's limited edition live recording. The piece, more "harmonically adventurous," to quote Brooks, featured intricate call and response lines between Coryell and Majumdar, who demonstrated his training at rendering repetitions of lighting fast melody lines in real time. Then, the group ventured back into the realm of more traditional Indian fusion with a composition based on the hamsadhwani raga in the tala (rhythm cycle) ektaal (12 beats). Again the group trod the blistering Shakti-esque unison line territory with a rhythm and speed change more similar of Hindustani classical concerts.

The set climaxed with "Jog Jazz," a finale that combined raga Jog with the legendary groove from Miles Davis' "It's About That Time." After a blues intro, the fearsome foursome tore into the grove that had Coryell exchanging bar phrases with Kalyanpur. One walk to the green room and back later, the group returned to the stage to play a composition dedicated to the wives of the group members, what Coryell said was "the most spiritual song we could think of": John Coltrane's "Naima." The rendition essentially had Coryell and Brooks take the reins while their Indian counterparts sat the tune out. As much interest as the other members generated, a special shout out needs to be given to Aditya Kalyanpur. Rarely in any composition was the young man extra flashy, but it was his groove and aplomb that granted the music the grounding and real indispensable Indian texture that gave the project its soul.

In all, the project lives up to the typical standard of Brooks: high energy, high quality Indian fusion. Recommended.

Live MP3 of Bombay Jazz available here.

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[Published on: 3/31/10]

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