Coming fast on the heels of his Nine Decades series – which featured some brilliant tracks from the early days of his international career, sitar legend Ravi Shankar’s official record label, East Meets West Music, has now released the first part of The Living Room Sessions.
The blurb suggests a free-flowing jamming session took place in October 2011 in the living room of Shankar’s California home, with Shankar (aged almost 92) claiming he was ‘fooling around’ with his long time tabla accompanist Tanmoy Bose. But the four tracks on this disc lack absolutely nothing in the way of musical virtuosity, technical brilliance and the kind of high-energy passion that belongs in concert performances. All while affording listeners the added fly-on-the wall feeling – letting them be privy to a mood of relaxed intimacy between soloist and accompanist.
The recording features four relatively brief but immensely engaging tracks, starting with ‘Raga Malgunji’, immediately drawing one into a world of bitter-sweet longing; Shankar delivers it with a restraint that can only be the hallmark of an old pro. This is followed by a short, tentative introduction to the exuberant ‘Raga Khamaj’, a regular of Shankar’s repertoire and one that became something of a signature tune in those heady days of the 60s. ‘Raga Kedara’ is definitely a highpoint, especially when both musicians launch into a fluid, overtly lyrical version of this evening raga, followed by a complete change of mood on the final track, ‘Raga Satyajit’, named after Shankar’s close friend, the late filmmaker Satyajit Ray. In keeping with the feel of a Ray film, the piece begins with a solemn dirge and gradually builds up to a spontaneous, easy-flowing array of emotions. It definitely leaves one gagging for more; the second part is due in autumn 2012.
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