Top of the World: Debashish Bhattacharya – Beyond the Ragasphere

Posted on June 2nd, 2013 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Words by Rolf Killius

Celestial Indian jazz

Whoever still thinks of ‘fusion’ in the context of Indian music as a term of abuse will have to change their opinion after listening to this varied and gripping album. Try, for instance, track seven, set to the North Indian ‘Raga Pillu’, which shows an exciting interplay between two slide-guitar players representing different musical cultures: the Kolkata-based Debashish Bhattacharya, trained in North Indian Hindustani art music, also the composer of this album, and the American bluegrass player Jerry Douglas. This dance-like piece expresses indeed the meaning of this raga: love, joy and happiness. As does the whole album, in fact.

On one 16-minute track Bhattacharya interacts with the jazz-rock legend John McLaughlin. In a transoceanic collaboration, the 70-year-old jazz veteran demonstrates his deep knowledge of Indian melodic structure and jazz improvisation while Bhattacharya adds his intricate slide-guitar lines. Mainak Nag Chowdhury – probably the best Indian bassist there is – and Jeff Sipe on drums add a more funky nuance to the guitar playing. There are two teardrops only: one might wish for more in-depth and lengthy interactions between the Bengali slide-guitar player and some of his international guests. Also, the voices singing above the instrumental pieces remind you too often of several Indian recordings wherein temple chanting meets cheesy pop.

TRACK TO TRY: JD2 Pillusion

(On Riverboat Records)

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