In this session, jazz is not adulterated to Indian music, and neither is the Indian element "jazzed up". Nor do both partners meet halfway in an abstract inhospitable no man's land where they would relinquish their respective characteristics. Each of these musical areas remain respected in their individualities, their purity is left untouched. Everyone of these musicians plays his very own music. Yet, this is really why it is so revealing to hear how musicians of two very widely separated cultures are able to communicate intelligently, how they can play together with superb sensitiveness.That perceptive quote comes from the sleeve notes of the 1967 MPS LP Jazz Meets India on which a duo of horn players provide the improvisatory thread that ties together a jazz trio and three Indian musicians. And the result is precisely what it says on the packet, or rather sleeve note.
Jazz Meets India has just been re-released on CD and is not to be missed. Heading the Indian trio is Dewan Motihar on sitar; he studied with Ravi Shankar and is one of a number of people credited by music folklore with introducing the Beatles to Indian music. Backing him are tabla and tampura while facing off the Eastern instruments is the pioneering Swiss free jazz group Irène Schweizer Trio, This is led by Irène Schweizer on piano backed by acoustic bass and drums, and binding these two disparate ensembles together are the improvisations of Manfred Schoof on trumpet and Barney Wilen on sax.
The CD re-release comes from German independent Promising Music which has found a niche licensing material from the Universal Music owned MPS label- does that sound familiar? The album's superb pre-digital sound has been re-mastered by Arnold Kasar of Eastside Mastering in Berlin and the result puts recordings made with today's so-called state of the art technology to shame. Packaging, which uses the original 1967 artwork seen above, is also exemplary, as is the documentation. and the 'black' CD which comes in an LP-style inner liner.
Philip Glass, who knows a thing or two about Indian music, once said 'I am not interested in repeating successes'. In 2010 two CDs in particular reminded me of those words. One was Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble's Officium Novum on ECM. I paid very good money for this new release in Barcelona in the summer, but sadly it is high on my 'dog of the year' shortlist - those who do not understand why should read that Philip Glass quote. And, incidentally, while ECM delighted with some 2010 releases, Officium Novum was not the only new disc to suggest the label was also spending periods on autopilot.
The other CD which reminded me of Philip Glass' words was Jazz from India. This, by contrast, does not seek success in an abstract musical no man's land. Instead, as the headline says, everyone of these musicians plays their very own music. This 1967 album is not only an essential purchase for free-thinking readers, it is also yet another wake up call to the major record labels .
* Audio samples from Jazz Meets India are available from the Promising Music website. There are also samples on YouTube, but the sound and date suggest they come from an LP. The CD, like the original LP, plays for a brief thirty-four minutes. But that is a small price to pay for one of the best things to grace my CD player in 2010.
** This article is the result of a heads-up from Belgian reader Bernard Tuyttens, as was the equally praiseworthy First from Dawn of Midi. Coincidentally this is post number 2500 On An Overgrown Path. If this blog has achieved anything over the past seven years it is due to the many ever supportive readers around the world who guide it.
Also on Facebook and Twitter. Jazz Meets India was bought from amazon.co.uk for £11.99. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk