Joel Harrison & Anupam Shobhakar Multiplicity – “Leave the Door Open”


Joel Harrison - "Multiplicity"The most compelling aspect of Leave the Door Open is the steady stream of transitions between genres, like a poetic game of word association laid out on a brightly lit path.  Multiplicity, a collaboration between the genre-bending guitarist Joel Harrison and classical Indian sarodist Anupam Shobhakar, brings together the music approaches of jazz, classical Indian, rock, folk, and blues, and rather than include them all as ingredients in some sonic cocktail, instead they identify the commonalities, the soft points of connectivity between the varied music forms, and create a single fluid stream of expressionism where one bleeds into the next with a seamless precision, an act made more impressive in the way the previous genre continues to linger even as the subsequent sound is under way.  It is where change and constant become indistinguishable from one another.  It is why this music is so damn thrilling.

Your album personnel: Joel Harrison (electric, national steel, acoustic & baritone guitars), Anupam Shobhakar (sarode), Gary Versace (piano, B3 organ & accordion), Hans Glawischnig (double & electric bass), Dan Weiss (drums, tabla), and guests: David Binney (alto sax), Todd Isler (percussion), Bonnie Chakraborty (voice), and Chandrashekar Vase (voice).

Introductory tracks “The Translator” and “Leave the Door Open” get right to it, moving from simmering modern jazz pieces to an electric rock burn before returning to opening forms.  It doesn’t reflect the breathless display of genre-bending of later tracks, per se, but the way in which Shobhakar’s sarode fits in with the crowd is a strong statement in itself.

The sarode, similar to the sitar but possessing a bit more gravitas, flaps wings with an affecting display of intensity that mirrors Harrison’s armory of guitar.  Yet of even more intrigue is the way in which sarode mirrors the fluttering motion David Binney’s sax on “Madhuvanti” and how sarode and Glawischnig’s bass behave as the light and dark sides of the moon on the ensemble’s nifty rendition of the Willie Dixon blues classic “Spoonful.”

Title track “Multiplicity” combines vocal chant with anthemic organ blasts, drum rips that hit the balance between the jazz and rock, and electric guitar with a bit of menace to it.  Gary Versace is a great fit for this kind of project.  Aside from his work on a variety of recordings that could fit under the Something Different category, his versatility on different keyboard instruments and his talent on accordion offer up an impressive accessibility to the very same sound that he warps and molds into shapes that fall outside mainstream conventions.

The charming “Kemne Avul” is a Bengali folk song with a sunny personality and a catchy turn of phrase, both with Chakrahorty’s vocals and Shobhakar’s sarode.  There is something short and sweet about this tune, sitting at the center of an album replete with dynamic textures and a whirlwind of varied sounds.  And its relative simple expression greatly accentuates the rhythmic torrent of “Turning World,” a tune that hangs its hat on a firework display of syncopation.  And while Shobhakar’s sarode provides the greatest thrills in that display, it’s Dan Weiss’s percussive contribution that shepherds the tune along successfully.

The inclusion of drummer and percussionist Weiss was almost a no-brainer for this project.  His involvement with Chhandayan, Inc , a non-profit that seeks to advance Indian classical music, as well as his own recordings and collaborations with Rudresh Mahanthappa, another musician who explores how Indian musics can find common ground with jazz improvisation, sees Weiss operating in an environment he was more than acclimated to the moment he stepped into the room.

The album ends with the spiritual “Deep River.”  The first half has an atmospheric drifting ambiance, with sarode and electric guitar offering up rustic twang and refracted light via strings, while organ hums soulfully in tune with the comforting hush of Weiss’s brushwork.  The second half of the song is an excitable duet between guitar and sarode, displaying both the liveliness and virtuosity of composition and musician, and serving as a final reminder of this album’s thrilling embrace of change and challenge.

Released on Whirlwind Recordings.

Christopher Drukker is responsible for the cool album cover art.

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