Ranjit Barot – Bada Boom
Ranjit Barot – Drums, Keyboards, Vocals, Konnakol, Composer and Arranger
With Special Guests:
Zakir Hussain – Tabla
John McLaughlin – Guitar
U. Shrinivas – Electric Mandolin
U. Rajesh – Electric Mandolin
Matt Garrison – Bass
Wayne Krantz – Guitar
And Other Featured Artists…
2. T = 0
3. Revolutions (In memory of Charlie Mariano)
4. Supernova (In memory of ‘Abbaji’ Ustad Alla Rakha)
5. Dark Matter
John McLaughlin’s 2008 Abstract Logix CD Floating Point and its companion DVD Meeting Of The Minds featured some of India’s contemporary musician’s playing over Western music styles and forms (i.e. chord progressions). One of the standout performers on those sessions was drummer Ranjit Barot; who plays with a dynamically propulsive style that seamlessly emerges Eastern rhythms with jazz swing, R&B backbeats, fusion flash – and everything in between. I became an instant fan of his playing, and hoped to hear more of Ranjit’s music as a band leader. That hope is now a reality with the release of Ranjit Barot’s debut CD on Abstract Logix, Bada Boom.
Bada Boom is not a typical “East meets West” project where the Eastern music component plays a minor or “decorative” role. As Ranjit says in his liner notes, the songs represent his journey toward finding a meeting place between musical cultures and are a “celebration of my Indian-ness.” That Indian-ness (in this case the stronger, more natural component of the music), balanced with practical knowledge of his Western influences, makes Bada Boom a unique and cohesive musical statement.
In addition to Ranjit Barot’s brilliant drumming, Bada Boom is also a showcase for his imaginative composing and arranging. The four Barot originals and two arrangements based on traditional themes have a sweeping, cinematic quality to them. This isn’t really a surprise since Ranjit has written numerous film scores. But to feel the grandness of a movie soundtrack in the context of this diverse collection of songs is very impressive. The sound and production of the CD is immaculate. Close your eyes while listening and your imagination will be inspired by the music and take you away.
Selected highlights from this great CD are:
“T = 0” – Without question, this song is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Opening like a ballad with flute and acoustic guitar, the mood changes to a mid-tempo groove featuring a wicked electric mandolin solo by U. Rajesh. Bass and strings unison lines separate the solo sections. A brief vocal chill-out sets up a gorgeous Marc Guillermont guitar solo backed by the strings. The string orchestrations on this piece will make you melt. Just lovely!
“Singularity” – This is a straight-up fusion workout with a veena playing over a thumping rhythm. The combination of electronic and traditional Indian instruments played over an odd time signature doesn’t sound forced or fake; it swings and it rocks! Bassist Matt Garrison is all over this piece. And if that weren’t enough, John McLaughlin makes a cameo! Ranjit and John start mixin’ it up – like the McLaughlin and Billy Cobham guitar/drum “duets” of the ’70s – with Ranjit matching John stroke for stroke! This is the shit!
“Revolutions” – This is dedicated to the late sax great Charlie Mariano, who also played nagaswarm (a double reed horn similar to an oboe). The piece opens with a short alap by a wailing nagaswarm over layered keyboards. Vignesh Ishwar sings the main melody and does some vocal improvisation. The killer middle section has a raga-like percussion workout with the drummers trading rhythms; highlighted by Ranjit playing konnakol phrases on the drum kit! This gives way to a finale where vocals are overdubbed to create a choir, the soaring voices just taking you higher and higher. Amazing!
“Supernova” – Dedicated to the late tabla master Alla Rakha, this piece also features his sons Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi (no superlatives needed). U. Shrinivas opens with poignant phrasing on his electric mandolin. Lyrics and moving string orchestration are merged with a floating jazz-style combo of piano, acoustic bass and the percussionists. Throughout the piece, Ranjit and Zakir Hussain throw rhythms back and forth underneath to the point where you almost forget there’s a great tune happenin’ on top!
In my 2008 interview with Ranjit Barot, “Duality On The Drums”, I asked him to describe his music. He replied that he was “trying to find a way to take a deep culture like Indian music and make it accessible to everyone.” With the music on Bada Boom, Ranjit Barot has undoubtedly achieved that goal with the highest level of success.
** Ranjit Barot’s international debut CD Bada Boom will be released November 16, 2010