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Tasa - Urban Music

Tasa – Urban Music

 
This first-rate Canadian world music ensemble strives for Indian authenticity as it strides into some new and exciting musical territory with its third CD. Combining the sounds of Indian tabla, sarangi, sarod and bansuri with American electric guitars, saxophone and drumset, Tasa has arrived at a fresh, post-Shakti hybrid of East meets West that recalls saxophonist George Brooks’s Indian fusion with his group Summit (featuring guitarist Fareed Haque, electric bassist, drummer Steve Smith and tabla master Zakir Hussain). World music aficionados and followers of creative instrumental music in general should definitely know about this dynamic band of musical renegades to the North.
Tasa - Urban Music

Tasa – Urban Music

On the energized opener, ‘Agni,’ special guest Shahid Ali Khan lends his astonishingly powerful Hindustani vocals to the buoyant proceedings, which are underscored by the percolating tabla-drums-bass groove and colored by John Gzowski’s arpeggiated guitar lines. Ernie Tollar also offers some authoritative call-and-response playing on bansuri here.
Another special guest, Dhruba Ghosh, adds a hauntingly beautiful sarangi to the mix on ‘Blue,’ an intriguing fusion of East meets West that also features Ernie Tollar’s saxophone in a call-and-response with Ghosh’s authentic Indian vocals.
Bassist Chris Gartner and drummer Alan Hetherington provide a sparse groove while bandleader and principal composer Ravi Naimpally anchors the piece with his percolating tabla pulse. Fellow Canadian Kevin Breit, a former member of Cassandra Wilson’s band, also kicks in a sarod-flavored dobro solo here. Ghosh’s highly expressive sarangi playing is also prominently featured alongside Tollar’s bansuri on the upbeat jam, ‘Hari Om.’
Tanveer Alam’s impassioned Hindustani vocals add authenticity and power to the mellow ‘Chatting with God,’ which also features some nice acoustic guitar work from Gzowski. Bassist Gartner again adopts a minimalist approach to his low-end groove playing here while Hetherington provides solid backbeats on the kit against Naimpally’s assortment of percussive layers (tabla, udu drum and talking). Tollar’s darting soprano sax lines intertwine organically with Alam’s majestic voice throughout this affecting piece.
‘Zazamanc’ is the jazziest offering of the collection, with Gzowski’s guitar, Gartner’s bass guitar and Tollar’s soprano sax running through tricky unison lines on the head before branching out for some freewheeling improvisations over Hetherington’s rock solid backbeat. Naimpally flavors the insistent groove on this open-ended romp with his omnipresent tabla work.
Elsewhere on Urban Turban, Steve Oda turns in some beautiful sarod playing on the meditative ‘Ketu’ which is echoed by Gzowski emulating mandolinist Srinivas on his electric guitar, and drummer-percussionist Heterington showcases his dexterity and chops in a scintillating duet with Naimpally’s tabla on ‘Tani.’ Tollar gets in some heightened exchanges on bansuri with Gzowski’s oud and Ghosh’s sarangi on the heavy groove number ‘Uma Dances.’ And string specialilst Gzowski shines on dobro on the mournful ‘Vishwakarma,’ which is also highlighted by some inspired excursions by Ghosh on sarangi.
‘How Am I?,’ a catchy, Bollywood-ish offering, features AlamÕs urgent vocals against a shifting undercurrent provided by Naimpally’s tabla and Hetherington’s slamming backbeats. On the dark, Weather Reportish closer ‘Twilight,’ Tollar plays Wayne Shorter on soprano sax while percussionist Louis Orbegoso adds a churning Afro-Cuban undercurrent on congas. Oda also offers a stunning sarod solo on this adventurous, open-ended groover that closes out this highly ambitious set.
While the prevailing vibe here may be in a world music vein, Urban Turban is highly recommended to open-minded listeners and devotees of groove everywhere.
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