Posts Tagged “guitar”

Simon Thacker’s Svara-KantiCD cover


Slap the Moon Records

Simon Thacker, guitar; Japjit Kaur, voice; Jacqueline Shave, violin; Sarvar Sabri, tabla

  • Thacker – Dhumaketu
  • Osborne – The Five Elements
  • Riley – SwarAmant
  • Korde – Anusvara – 6th Prism
  • Thacker – Svaranjali
  • Thacker – Multani
  • Thacker – Three Punjabi folksongs
  • Thacker – Rakshasa

The rich diversity of musical influences available in this world can yield truly inspired works which weave multiple threads into a single aural “rope” or works which use cursory cultural details out of the desire to sound “exotic.” Happily, Rakshasa is a work in the first category, bringing together musical elements into an attractive musical package.

Thacker’s compositional output on the disc reflects this polycultural synthesis with a delightful blend of traditional sounding Indian music with very Western harmonic progressions. Shave’s violin playing clearly draws from traditional Indian practices but to my ears her sound is only a slight nudge away from American fiddle technique. Kaur’s voice is bright and clean without ever becoming irritatingly nasal. Sabri’s tabla playing is direct, focused, and provides ample forward momentum when present.

As I am not an expert in music of India, I can’t speak much about the traditions surrounding the influences of each composition. The notes provide a wealth of guidance on all of these issues but I never found much need to refer to them in order for specific tracks to make sense. Everything on the disc makes sense as it is and left few questions that led to a need for research.

If I could point to a single track that represents the core of the music, I would choose Thacker’s compositions Svaranjali. The scales and rhythms used throughout this propulsive work are right on the edge of traditional ragas and something you might find on a Bela Fleck album. It isn’t that Thacker has “cleaned up” Indian rhythmic and pitch vocabulary to fit Western classical guitar tradition, Thacker instead draws on elements of both musics to shape a fiery and groovy piece.

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Rotational Templates
Travis Reuter Quintet (Travis Reuter, guitar; Jeremy Viner, tenor saxophone; Bobby Avey, Fender Rhodes; Chris Tordini, bass; Jason Nazary, drums)

New Focus Recordings

After its commodification and some excess smooth jazz hybridization in the eighties and nineties, jazz fusion became a somewhat maligned genre. But if you’re fusing jazz signatures and rock instrumentation with the “right stuff,” its flexible profile can be a vehicle for heady music-making and imaginative improvisations. Guitarist Travis Reuter is not only a fine jazz-rock exponent and bandleader; as a composer, he references contemporary classical music, naming modernists such as Elliott Carter as well as the New Complexity composers as interests. On his debut album as leader, Rotational Templates, titles such as “Singular Arrays” and “Flux Derivatives,” as well as the intricately constructed pieces to which they are appended, demonstrate this connection.

Of course, Reuter isn’t the only musician exploring this particular amalgam. Tyshawn Sorey and Matthew Shipp have long been interested in similar integrations of avant-classical into jazz. But Reuter adds a layer of fusion to the mix, giving us an ample dose of structured yet nimble riffing, reminiscent in places of Alan Holdsworth, that suits the ornate constructions of his hybrid compositions.

His collaborators make strong contributions as well. Avey’s linear solos dovetail with Reuter’s melodies in a savory duet on “Singular Arrays.” Meanwhile, Viner and Reuter join to play a unison head on “Flux Derivatives,” but then diverge for their own solo turns. Viner’s is filled with ecstatic, free jazz inflected, angularities and the occasional stratospheric wail. He’s also exemplary on “Residency at 20 (Part 2)” adding exultant altissimo passages and post-blues flourishes to its avant jazz template. Tordini and Nazary create fulsome grooves that propel the action but are never obtrusive. Joined by Avey, they create piquant post-tonal changes and flexible phrases that undergird the soloists with fascinating harmonic contours.

All of this is accomplished without losing a sense of jazz’s swinging vitality: quite a feat for a debut!

Residency at 20 (part 2) by Travis Reuter

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