The Indian Blues – new releases worth checking out
Reviews by Douglas Heselgrave
Vishwan Mohan Bhatt and Matt Malley – Sleepless Nights
VM Bhatt must be one of the busiest string players alive today. Over the past decade or so he and his Mohan veena – a modified Indian slide guitar that shares many of the same tonal values as the sitar – have collaborated to make music with a veritable who’s who of western guitarists. Ry Cooder, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Bob Brozman and many others have all recorded some of the best albums of their careers with Bhatt. Of these, Bhatt and Cooder’s ‘A Meeting by the River’ remains one of the best east-west acoustic fusion albums ever recorded.
This time out, Bhatt has teamed up with Matt Malley, the former bassist of the Counting Crows to record an album of original instrumental compositions. The pair – aided and abetted by Subhen Chatterje on tablas – travel through some very exhilarating improvisational territory as they explore the fine line between the blues and Indian classical music. “Sleepless Nights” is essentially an album of live off the floor improvised music with the only overdubs being some keyboard textures added by Malley later on in the studio. Fans of intricate acoustic music from bluegrass to jamband tunes should love this album. Highly recommended.
Ravi Shankar – Nine Decades Volume 1
Ravi Shankar turned ninety this year, so not surprisingly there have been several commemorative collections released to celebrate the event. The music contained in the inaugural volume of this series on Shankar’s own East meets West label originates from 1967 and 1968 – the period during which his work was beginning to be discovered in North America and Europe. As one might expect, the performances – especially of the long raga, “Raga Gangeshwari” – are superb and capture Shankar at the peak of his powers. Recorded with a single microphone outdoors on the banks of the Ganges river, the technical quality of this release is unfortunately not what one would ideally wish for, but it is more than compensated for by the incredible interplay between Shankar’s sitar and Allah Rakha’s tabla.
This article also appears at www.restlessandreal.blogspot.com