It is a great pleasure to have another opportunity to write more about this music. Earlier this year I wrote a review of the title cut for jazz.com and gave it a rave. The piece really took me away.
Pianist Marc Rossi is a full Professor of Piano and Jazz Composition at Berklee. His background is as diverse as the musical scales. His jazz bona fides easily fill a page. He has played with Jimmy Giuffre, Stan Strickland and George Russell. He has written both classical and jazz pieces for orchestras.
These days he is deep into the study of Hindustani and Carnatic Music. This isn’t a new thing for Rossi. In the mid 90s he was co-leading a raga-jazz project.
The Indian classical musical influences are very much alive on Hidden Mandala. But they are only part of a unique cultural stew that includes different ethnic spices and jazz genres.This music is, in effect, for everyone. It is jazz-world fusion by definition.
The opening number Blues for Frank and Geetha is an Indian-blues-straight ahead hybrid. The introductory Indian vocal section, presented by Geetha Bennett and an unnamed male, provides just the right rhythmic riffs for the band to start swinging. Saxophonist Lance Van Lenton is particularly engaging on this number which Rossi first worked on back in 1981. But singling out Van Lenten is giving him credit for his role on this tune only. All of these players have strong chops that are displayed time and time again throughout the different themes, and there are many, that Rossi’s group presents on this exciting album. Rossi’s own playing is a combination of strong block chords and McCoy Tyner-like single note runs.
On an album of highlights the title cut Hidden Mandala stands out. If the world was just and commerciality was determined by quality, this cut would be a pop hit. Also of great interest is the more electric piece Bittersweet Five that ends the album and features Indian carnatic guitarist Prasanna. You need to hear this fellow play guitar.
Those of you who enjoy your progressive jazz with a cultural bounce, not necessarily always Indian, and delight in traveling to new and diverse musical spheres will find yourselves thoroughly engaged by the music on Hidden Mandala.
Professor Rossi is a teacher that does what he does and just not what he says.
You may read my jazz.com review of Marc Rossi’s music here.
1. Blues for Frank and Geetha
2. Hidden Mandala Intro
3. Fatwa in Carbondale
4. Hidden Mandala
5. Voice of 1000 Colors
6. Free Speech Zone
7. Free Speech Zone Outro
8. Bittersweet Five
Marc Rossi – Composer, Steinway B piano, keyboards, laptop
Bill Urmson – electric basses
Lance Van Lenten – tenor and soprano saxophones, flutes
Mauricio Zottarelli – Drums and Percussion
Geetha Bennett – voice on tracks 1 and 4
Bruce Arnold – guitars on track 6
Prasanna – guitar on track 8