Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John McLaughlin ... Risk, Magic and Mystery

John McLaughlin Fusion World Music
John McLaughlin

He’s probably the greatest musician-to date. One of fusion's most virtuosic guitar soloists, John McLaughlin placed his blazing speed in the service of a searching spiritual passion that has kept his music evolving and open to new influences. Whether shredding on electric or simmering quietly on acoustic, McLaughlin's intensity and underappreciated versatility have nearly always kept his playing vital, and his best moments -- whether as a solo artist or band member -- represent some of fusion's greatest recordings.

McLaughlin was born January 4, 1942, in Yorkshire, England, and began playing guitar at age 11. Initially attracted to blues and swing, he worked with British artists like Georgie Fame, Graham Bond, Brian Auger, and Ginger Baker. McLaughlin formed his own band in 1968, and recorded the excellent debut Extrapolation in early 1969. Later that year he moved to New York to join Tony Williams' groundbreaking fusion band Lifetime, and appeared on the classic Emergency! Through Williams, McLaughlin was invited to join Miles Davis' band, and became an important part of fusion landmarks like In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. In 1970, wanting to explore acoustic and Eastern music, McLaughlin recorded the classic My Goal's Beyond; he soon left Davis, and after one further solo album, Devotion, McLaughlin spent some time woodshedding.

He re-emerged in 1971 as leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a seminal band that did much to define and popularize early jazz-rock fusion, as evidenced by the albums The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Pausing to record Love Devotion Surrender with Carlos Santana in 1972, McLaughlin led Mahavishnu until 1975. Returning to spiritual preoccupations on My Goal's Beyond, he then formed Shakti, which fused acoustic jazz with Indian music over the course of three albums. McLaughlin returned to his solo career in the late '70s, forming a backing outfit called the One Truth Band, and also recording the guitar trio albums Friday Night in San Francisco and Passion, Grace & Fire with fellow fusion burner Al di Meola and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. As the '80s went along, McLaughlin experimented with classical-jazz hybrid composing; there was also a short-lived Mahavishnu reunion in the mid-'80s.
In the 1990s McLaughlin continued to record steadily in both electric and acoustic groups. He signed to Verve, where he would remain for 13 years. Some of the more notable albums from that period include the acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans in 1993; After the Rain with Elvin Jones and Joey DeFrancesco in 1995; and 1996's The Promise, which featured the guitarist in a number of settings, including a reunion with his acoustic trio partners di Meola and de Lucia, and a trio with DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers. The drummer was also a part of McLaughlin's final album of the decade, Heart of Things, a furious bout of electric jazz.

The 21st century found McLaughlin in another nostalgic mood, releasing Remember Shakti: The Believer, a live set featuring the guitarist (playing electric guitar) with electric mandolinist U. Shrinivas, kanjira and ghatam player V. Selvaganesh, and legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain. While it wasn't a Shakti album proper, it nonetheless echoed that group's intricate and amazing rhythmic and harmonic breakthroughs. The group toured and released Saturday Night in Bombay a year later. McLaughlin's Euro-classical-leaning Thieves and Poets appeared in 2003. In 2004, WEA in Germany issued the massive 17-CD box set of McLaughlin's Montreux Concerts, which featured performances recorded between 1974 and 1996. Industrial Zen, released in 2006, was a mixed-bag recording where the guitarist's ambitions ran wild. It was his final album for Verve.

John McLaughlin World Music Guitar
John McLaughlin

In 2008 McLaughlin issued Floating Point, an extension of many of the concepts on Industrial Zen, on the Abstract Logix imprint. The final track on that album was entitled "Five Peace Band"; it served as the name for a super group assembled by McLaughlin and Chick Corea for a one-off world tour. The other members were saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride; an album of the same name was released in 2009 on Concord. To the One, a studio album with his 4th Dimension band was released on Abstract Logix in the spring of 2010. McLaughlin resurfaced two years later with Now Here This, featuring new 4th Dimension drummer, Ranjit Barot.

"I'm a guitar player that's what I am primarily, that's what I'll always be," McLaughlin has been quoted as saying. "(And) I'm an eternal learner. I don't want to stop learning because I feel that no matter what I've done, I'm really just beginning again. I don't think I'll ever stop learning."

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Zakir Hussain - Hands that Speak

Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro
Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla Maestro

He needs no introduction. He is, undoubtedly, the best tabla player in the world. With numerous national and international awards and accolades to his credit, he is a national treasure, not only in India, but worldwide. His consistent and brilliant performances mark him as India's greatest classical musicians. This genius is Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro who has contributed largely to the field of percussion and music at international levels. Being the youngest percussion to be honored with civilian awards from the Indian Government, this exceptionally talented and highly celebrated musician is a music encyclopedia in him. Since childhood, Zakir Hussain has continuously imparted his formidable knowledge and study to the music world, and has not let it rest till date. Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, he has elevated the status of his instrument. A favorite accompanist for India’s leading classical musicians and dancers, Zakir is also widely recognized as a chief architect of the world music movement with his many historic collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Diga, Planet Drum and his ever-changing musical feast, Masters of Percussion. In summer 2012, Zakir was named Best Percussionist in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll.

Early Life

Zakir Hussain was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, to the legendary and established tabla player, Alla Rakha, and Bavi Begum. He attained his schooling from St. Michael's High School, Mahim and later completed his graduation from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. Being a born prodigy, Hussain started touring the world for his tabla performances, ever since he turned 12. His international career began in 1970 from the United States, wherein he had over 150 concert dates a year to handle.

Career in Music
Zakir Hussain has worked with many western and Indian artists but out of the most notably known productions of his, the highly celebrated are the Beatles. After he set his footsteps on foreign lands in 1970, there was no looking back for Hussain. In 1971, he collaborated with the American psychedelic band called Shanti to produce an album. He even made an appearance on George Harrison's album titled 'Living in the Material World' in 1973. He joined hands with John McLaughlin to form the band Shakti and work on Indo-Jazz projects, which proved fruitful. This partnership resulted in the production of several albums, namely, 'Shakti' (1975), 'A Handful of Beauty' (1976), and 'Natural Elements' (1977). Hussain has even worked with the eminent musicologist and drummer Mickey Hart on various projects, beginning with Hart's first solo album 'Rolling Thunder'. This partnership worked well, which was evident from the numerous albums they created together, like 'Diga', 'At The Edge', 'Planet Drum', 'Mickey Hart's Mystery Box', 'Supralingua', 'Spirit into Sound', and 'Global Drum Project'.

The honor of Padma Shri, one of India's civilian honors, made Hussain the youngest percussion to be awarded with this prestigious title. In April 1991, Hussain became one of the youngest musicians to be felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India in recognition from India's governing cultural institute. Besides, Hussain is also fortunate to have been associated with several bands of Hart, including 'Diga Rhythm Band', 'Planet Drum', 'Bembe Orishas', and 'Global Drum Project'. The first album released by Planet Drum went on to win the first Grammy Award in the category 'Best World Music Album' in 1992. After a break of about 20 years, Hussain rejoined again with McLaughlin in the band Remember Shakti; thus, coming up with prolific and highly acclaimed albums - 'Remember Shakti' (1999), 'The Believer' (2000), 'Saturday Night in Bombay' (2001), 'Live at 38th Montreux Jazz Festival' (2004), and 'Live at Miles Davis Hall'(2004). In 2002, Hussain was yet again felicitated with the third highest civilian honor, Padma Bhushan.

Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro
Zakir Hussain tabla maestro

Career in Films
Apart from delivering live performances and recording music albums, Hussain has also gained fame in the field of films. He starred and composed music for the 1983 film 'Heat and Dust'. This was followed by composing, performing, and acting in the Malayalam film 'Vanaprastham' as an Indian music advisor, in 1999. The same year, the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest). The film went on to win awards in 2000 at Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), Bombay International Film Festival (India), and National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for 'In Custody', 'The Mystic Masseur', and 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer', apart from playing tabla on the soundtracks of 'Apocalypse Now', 'Little Buddha', and many others.

Personal Life
Zakir Hussain has been married to the distinguished Kathak dancer and student of Sitara Devi, Antonia Minnecola, an Italian American. The couple has two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa is a graduate from UCLA and works as a filmmaker and video producer. His younger daughter, Isabella is doing her majors in dance in Manhattan. Hussain has two younger brothers, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi, both noted percussionists, and a younger sister, Khurshid Aulia nee Qureshi.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Al Di Meola - The Elegant Gypsy

Al Di Meola gypsy guitar
Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola (born Al Laurence Dimeola, July 22, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is an acclaimed American jazz fusion and Latin jazz guitarist, composer, and record producer of Italian origin (from Cerreto Sannita). With a musical career that has spanned more than three decades; he has become respected as one of the most influential guitarists in jazz to date. Albums such as Friday Night in San Francisco have earned him both artistic and commercial success with a solid fan base throughout the world.

"If you don't advance creatively," Al Di Meola once told Guitar Player's Jim Ferguson, "then all you have left is playing Vegas." From his stunning arrival on the scene as the fiery virtuoso in Chick Corea's jazz fusion group Return to Forever to his international acclaim as the member of an acoustic guitar trio, to his championing of the musical legacy of tango master Astor Piazzolla, guitarist Di Meola has held firm to this credo. Passionate, opinionated, and immensely gifted, he has covered more musical terrain in his 20-year career than many artists have in a lifetime. Di Meola's accomplishments are made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has achieved them on both electric and acoustic instruments. Outwardly the electric guitar might seem similar to its acoustic counterpart talented performers on the two instruments have emerged from time to time, but few other artists have shown such a mastery of both or have been able to use them in such a wide variety of musical contexts.

As a youngster in the New Jersey town of Bergenfield, some 20 minutes away from New York City, Di Meola's first musical experience was on drums. However, when he was eight he began taking lessons from a local guitarist named Robert Aslanian who introduced him to a wide variety of music. Di Meola's exposure to many different musical repertories would continue to inform his development as a guitar soloist.In the early 1970s Di Meola studied instrumental performance at Boston's Berklee School of Music and performed with keyboardist Barry Miles. It was a call from keyboardist Chick Corea in 1974, though, that truly set his career in motion. Corea, who a year earlier had founded a second version of his influential fusion group Return to Forever, heard tapes of Di Meola performing with Miles's group and found him a worthy replacement for Bill Connors, who had recently left the band. After only a few days of rehearsal, Di Meola made his Carnegie Hall debut with Corea's group, and the following night Return to Forever played for a crowd of 40,000 in Atlanta.

Over the next two years, Return to Forever continued to tour successfully and released three albums. When the group suddenly dissolved in 1976, Di Meola, who had just released his first solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun, was momentarily disoriented by the group's disbandment but decided to use the opportunity to pursue a solo career. Elegant Gypsy followed in 1977, and the album became Di Meola's first major commercial success, ultimately selling nearly a million copies.With Di Meola's developing popularity as a soloist came a certain amount of negative press. Though most writers agreed that Di Meola was a phenomenal technician on his instrument, a few felt that his pyrotechnics masked a lack of emotional content. The controversy reached a head when Di Meola first teamed with acoustic virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia for a world tour and a live album, recorded in 1981. Though the album, Saturday Night in San Francisco, was hugely successful and won several awards, Stereo Review critic Joel Vance commented that the trio was so intent on displaying their virtuosity that "not one moment of real emotion is allowed; with all the dazzling zip, the result is sterility."

Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola

 After his second recording with Lucia and Mclaughlin in 1983, Di Meola began another important new phase of his career in 1991, when he founded the acoustic ensemble World Sinfonia. World Sinfonia included Dino Saluzzi on Piazzolla's own instrument, the bandoneon--a type of accordion--and sought to capture the intense emotion of Piazzolla's music in a fresh new setting. During the early 1990s the group toured extensively and recorded two critically acclaimed albums, the first featuring what Down Beat's Jon Andrews called Di Meola's "strongest acoustic work and most imaginative arrangements to date." World Sinfonia proved another intriguing chapter in a rich and varied career, and it seemed likely the future would find Al Di Meola following other musical paths with similar passion and vigor.

"I'm doing the music I like and it's a great high," Al once said. "I've established a following and now I want to reach more people." The excitement and challenge of his music in both acoustic and electric styles is proven with each new project he takes on, as every performance is, indeed, a tour de force!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mickey Hart - Born with Drumsticks in his Hands

Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Michael Steven Hartman, best known as Mickey Hart

On September 11, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Steven Hartman, best known as Mickey Hart, was welcomed into the world by his mother, Leah. Mickey’s father, a drummer named Lenny, had left the picture by the time Mickey was born. Mickey was raised solely by his mother, also a drummer, but seemed to inherit musical talent from both of his parents. Mickey Hart soon made the move to California with his family. In 1965, after Hart was discharged from the Air Force, he went back to New York to look for work as a studio session drummer. Not long after, Hart received a letter from his father, inviting him to work in Lenny's drum shop. This combined with a chance encounter with a world-famous percussionist, fueled Hart’s love for the drums. While attending grade school, Hart and the other children were treated to a special performance by famed Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji. As was the norm for many of Olatunji’s school performances, the drummer allowed the children to come to the stage and try out the drums. Hart was one of the kids that took Olatunji up on his offer, and he was never the same again. Mickey Hart is best known for his nearly three decades as an integral part of an extraordinary expedition into the soul and spirit of music, disguised as the rock and roll band the Grateful Dead. As half of the percussion tandem known as the Rhythm Devils, Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann transcended the conventions of rock drumming. Their extended polyrhythmic excursions were highlights of Grateful Dead shows, introducing the band’s audience to an ever-growing arsenal of percussion instruments from around the world. Exposure to these exotic sounds fueled Mickey’s desire to learn about the various cultures that produced them.

His tireless study of the world’s music led Mickey to many great teachers and collaborators, including his partners in Planet Drum. Planet Drum’s self-titled album not only hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991– the first Grammy ever awarded in this category. Planet Drum is one of twenty-nine recordings released on Mickey’s the World Series on Rykodisc. The WORLD offers a wide variety of music from virtually every corner of the globe with releases like Voices of the Rainforest from Papua New Guinea and Living Art, Sounding Spirit: The Bali Sessions. In 2002, Mickey established The Endangered Music Fund to return royalty payments from many of these recordings to the indigenous people that produced them, and to further the preservation of sounds and music from around the globe.

Mickey’s experiences have paved the way for unique opportunities beyond the music industry. He composed a major drum production performed by an assembly of 100 percussionists for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Additionally, Mickey has composed scores, soundtracks and themes for movies and television including Apocalypse Now, Gang Related, Hearts of Darkness, The Twilight Zone, the 1987 score to The AmericaÍs Cup: The Walter Cronkite Report, Vietnam: A Television History, and The Next Step. In 1994 Mickey was inducted with The Grateful Dead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Mickey has written four books documenting his lifelong fascination with the history and mythology of music. These include Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, and Songcatchers: In Search of the WorldÍs Music.Long a social activist, Mickey appeared in August, 1991 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, speaking on the healing value of drumming and rhythm on afflictions associated with aging. Since joining the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Hospital in 2000, Mickey is continuing his investigation into the connection between healing and rhythm, and the neural bases of rhythm.In 1999, Mickey was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where he heads the sub-committee on the digitization and preservation of the Center’s vast collections. In October of 2000, the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters upon Mickey for his work in advancing the preservation of aural archives.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jai Uttal …Music that creates bridges

Jai Uttal World Music
Jai Uttal

Jai Uttal is a pioneer in the world music community.  His eclectic east meets-west sound has put his music at the forefront of the world fusion movement. Jai Uttal's musical roots embrace a rich variety of cultures and traditions that span the globe and the centuries.  From the hillbilly music of the Appalachian Mountains to the passionate strains of Bengali street singers, from the haunting rhythms and melodies of ancient India to contemporary electric rock sounds, Jai's music distills the essence of diverse musical forms. Born in New York City in 1952, Uttal grew up in the music business -- his father worked for a record label, Jai's home was filled with music.  He began studying classical piano at the age of seven, and later learned to play old time banjo, harmonica, and guitar.  His musical interests encompassed a wide variety of styles, and over the years he experimented with many forms of musical expression. But his true spiritual epiphany came when he was 17 and first heard Indian music, which "touched my heart like sounds of my home," he said. "Then I got all the Indian albums I could, and jammed along on guitar with Ravi Shankar records.

Eventually this led him to the work of India's National Living Treasure, Ali Akbar Khan.  At the age of 19, Jai moved to California to become a student of Khansahib for traditional voice training and to learn the sarod, a 25-stringed Indian instrument.  Later he traveled to India where he was deeply inspired by the Bauls, the wandering street musicians of Bengal.  Jai settled among them, communicating only through music, which ultimately helped establish his unique style. During these early visits to India, Jai also met his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and spent time with many great beings of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  He became deeply absorbed in the practice of kirtan, the ancient yoga of chanting, or singing to God.  This form of prayer became the core of his musical and spiritual life. When Jai returned to the US, his music had been transformed.  He continued to study Indian music diligently while also performing in reggae, motown, punk, and blues bands.  He also began leading kirtan groups all over the country.  The combination of Jai's exceptional vocals and exotic instrumentation produced a new and captivating sound.

In 1991 Triloka Records released his debut album, Footprints, featuring world music innovator Don Cherry and Indian vocalist Lakshmi Shankar.  The album received critical acclaim and led Jai and his band, the Pagan Love Orchestra, to international prominence.  By the time his second album, Monkey, was released in 1993, Jai and the Pagan Love Orchestra had an enormous fan base with a top ten record on the world music charts. In 1994, Beggars and Saints was released, a tribute to the Bauls of Bengal, and again the album received international recognition, solidifying Jai Uttal's position as world music visionary.  During this time, Jai also produced two CD's for his teacher Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.  Combining the brilliance of Khansahib's playing and composing with Western orchestration, Journey and Garden of Dreams became extremely popular in the Indian community.

Jai Uttal
Jai Uttal

Jai's fourth release, Shiva Station, was another leap forward. Capturing the raw urgency of his live performances with the Pagan Love Orchestra, and adding the mixing wizardry of veteran producer Bill Laswell, Shiva Station presented traditional chants in a totally new way.  The concerts at that time united the temple and the nightclub, the sacred and the worldly; emphasizing the underlying theme that spirituality and devotion can pervade all aspects of life. Meanwhile, with the rise of interest in Yoga, Jai was receiving more and more requests to lead kirtan workshops and concerts all over the world.  In the last few years, chanting has brought him to Israel, Fiji, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and India.  Jai released a live kirtan CD entitled Nectar to begin to chronicle these powerful events. Finally in February of 2002, Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra released Mondo Rama on Narada Records.  The product of several years of deep musical and self-exploration, Mondo Rama has been called Jai's most personal expression to date.  Combining Brazilian influences, Hebrew prayers, Appalachian Blues, Beatles psychedelia, and, of course, Indian music and chants, Mondo Rama explodes from the speakers in celebration and rebirth.

"I went through many difficult heart-wrenching transformations in the last year", says Jai, "and I decided to put it all into this CD.  The anguish, the pain, the joy and the redemption. "Mondo Rama" means the World is Rama or Everything is God.  This CD is an attempt to express that feeling, and the sense of surrender and gratitude that I try to remember everyday". Mondo Rama went on to be nominated for a Grammy as “Best New Age Album” of 2002. Jai adds, "World music is music from everywhere.  Music that creates bridges.  Music that unites hearts and cultures.  Music that brings peace."

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Billy Cobham … Fusion’s Greatest Drummer

Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham

William C. (aka BILLY) COBHAM was born on May 16th, 1944 in Panama and moved to New York City when he was just three years old. When one looks at Billy's credentials (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, George Duke, Peter Gabriel and many more) it is easy to see he has been one of those important component in many musical situations. Flirting with congas and steel drums at the early age of five, Billy started his musical career. Ever since his breakthrough in the early 1970s-as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and as a drummer/leader whose recordings (such as Spectrum) and powerful, complex style of play exerted a strong influence on the course of jazz and jazz-fusion-Billy Cobham has remained a tireless musical explorer. He played his first gig with his dad when he was just eight, in New York, 5 years after moving from Panama in 1947.Beyond already having a superb musical ear and dynamic technique, he refined his musical education in the New York's High School of Music and Art, in which he learnt more drumming techniques and music theory. Panamanian by birth, a New Yorker by upbringing, and a resident of Switzerland for more than 25 years, Cobham has pursued an ever-broadening, ever-deepening engagement with the world not only as a master drummer and percussionist but as a composer, producer, educator, and clinician who gives service through music even as he constantly expands his personal creative expression.

His career as a jazz rock artist started with no other than the most talked-about jazz musician of the time: MILES DAVIS. He recorded five albums with Miles, including "Bitches Brew" (in which he was uncredited). After military service, during which he played in the U.S. Army Band as percussionist (1965-68), Cobham began working in Horace Silver's band. (While on a European tour with Silver in 1968 he became one of the first percussionists, along with Max Roach and Tony Williams, to use the Electronic Drum Controller made by the Meazzi Drum Company in Milan.) He also performed with Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott, and recorded with George Benson. In 1969 Cobham co-founded the fusion group Dreams, which also featured Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Don Grolnick, Barry Rodgers, and Will Lee. The following year he was invited to join Miles Davis's group and contributed to four pivotal recordings by the trumpeter, including Bitches Brew (where he collaborated with guitarist John McLaughlin) and Tribute to Jack Johnson.

Mahavishnu Orchestra was formed by McLaughlin in 1971 with Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird. They released three acclaimed albums (beginning with Inner Mounting Flame) before the band was dissolved and Cobham chose to launch his solo career with Spectrum, one of the definitive albums of the jazz-rock era. During the 1970s and '80s, he recorded steadily as a leader for Atlantic, CBS, Elektra, and GRP, collaborating with artists ranging from George Duke, John Scofield, and Tony Williams to Jack Bruce and the Grateful Dead, both on stage and in the studio. Cobham was engaged by UNICEF in 1992 to work with autistic outpatients and street children in Santos (near São Paulo), Brazil, in a musical project of several years' duration.

Billy Cobham Drummer
Billy Cobham Drummer
He has performed on hundreds of records with his own groups and with some of the music's most luminary artists, and his trademark - biggest, fastest, explosive drumming - has energized the international stages of concerts, symphonies, big bands, Broadway, festivals, television and video. He has been a teacher of his artistry, giving drum clinics, conducting workshops and symposiums throughout the world. His stylistic influence, which has literally created a category of music, is an outstanding part of the history of modern music.

Generally acclaimed as fusion's greatest drummer, Billy Cobham's explosive technique powered some of the genre's most important early recordings — including groundbreaking efforts by Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra — before he became an accomplished bandleader in his own right. At his best, Cobham harnessed his amazing dexterity into thundering, high-octane hybrids of jazz complexity and rock & roll aggression. He was capable of subtler, funkier grooves on the one hand, and awe-inspiring solo improvisations on the other; in fact, his technical virtuosity was such that his flash could sometimes overwhelm his music. Only a few times in history has a musician been singled out as the world class master of his instrument. Billy Cobham is one of those few artists. For over 30 years, he has received international acclaim as the total consummate percussionist. The legendary Billy Cobham, with his matchless, dazzling, ambidextrous skills as a drummer, has applied the same insistent fervor to his long list of monumental achievements.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bonobo… Beyond the borders of an emotional Soul-Jam

Simon Green Bonobo
Simon Green Bonobo

Simon Green, aka Bonobo, is an artist very much at the peak of his significant powers. His 2010 album Black Sands was the high watermark of his career to date; a masterful record, marrying Green's inimitable melodic genius to cutting edge electronics, bass and drums. Black Sands went on to sell over 150,000 copies worldwide, and since its release, Bonobo has toured the world with his live band, wowing audiences of thousands at a time with the hypnotic, extended live versions of the album's tracks. The beauty of Bonobo’s material lies in its ability to translate emotion into a music score, regardless of instrument, tempo, lyrics, or influencing genre. He is an artist and producer with his sights set on much higher prices than to rule any dusty subgenre of dance music.  Green understands composition and arrangement of live instruments (most of them also played by him) as well as his complete mastery of the tricks and techniques of the digital age has made him a house hold name in the industry.

All this comes as the result of over ten years hard work, and five albums that have honed Green's skills. A born musician, Green - like many artists - expresses himself most articulately via his music. The result is that his work is always keenly felt, and always feels imperative. There are no wasted moments, and always myriad great ones. It's tempting to relate Green's yearning, emotive aesthetic to his upbringing in rural Hampshire. His move to Brighton is also an influence; his skill at drum programming perhaps harking back to his days DJing and producing in the small, musically fertile town. Under the initial guidance of Tru Thoughts' Rob Luis and at nights such as Phonic:hoop, Bonobo found an early education in music.

His first album - 2000's Animal Magic - was released via Tru Thoughts before being picked up by Ninja Tune. It announced him as a serious talent; able to bring a true musician's edge to electronic music, with all the freedom that skill allowed. His subsequent albums for Ninja, Dial M for Monkey and Days to Come, developed his sensibility, won him fans across the globe, and saw him develop his live show into a mesmeric re-working of his records. “Days To Come,” has become one of Ninja Tune’s biggest artists worldwide, with over fifteen million plays on Last.FM and a series of sell out tours with his live band which have moved from venues such as the Luminaire to the Kentish Town Forum and the Roundhouse. This combination of superb live shows and studio wizardry means that he is now perfectly placed to push on into a yet bigger league. With “Black Sands,” Bonobo has made the progressive record to achieve it. He also worked hard as a DJ, a part of Green's arsenal that perhaps truly came into its own at the same time as Black Sands was generally welcomed as his best album to date. 2012 saw Green take the up-tempo, club re-edits of Black Sands from a seminal Boiler Room performance in London to dance floors across the world, and unveil a new light show that further enhanced the impact of these stunning songs. A remix album was released featuring reworking’s by fans and peers such as Machinedrum, Floating Points, Mark Pritchard, Lapalux and FaltyDL.

Simon Green Bonobo
Simon Green, aka Bonobo
Later the same year, he finally settled down in his New York studio to write his fifth studio album. Now, in 2013, he stands ready to take things up yet another notch. The North Borders is another long stride forward - both a natural evolution and a continuation of the electronic palette of Black Sands. Thematic, resonant, addictive and perfectly formed, it's a thrillingly coherent statement piece. With vocal features from no less than Erykah Badu, as well as Grey Reverend (Cinematic Orchestra) and Cornelia (Portico Quartet) it's another finely balanced body of work, leaving room for the beautiful, rich productions themselves to breathe and shine. Bonobo has a long history of unearthing new talent (Andreya Triana, Bjaika) and The North Borders sees him do so once again. The startling vocals of new collaborator Szjerdene are sprinkled across The North Borders, and Green has yet again found the perfect voice to enhance where he's at. With a huge run of international tour dates set to commence shortly after the album's Spring release date, plus a host of weighty press and radio campaigns and a bleeding edge online campaign, 2013 looks set to be Simon Green's year, which is very good news for the rest of us, too.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jonas Hellborg :The Wild Improviser

Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg was born 1958 in Gothenburg, Sweden. He taught himself to play the bass at age 12. Influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, cream, and deep purple, Hellborg played mainly blues and heavy rock. In 1972 he heard a record that changed his perception of music. This album, the inner mounting flame, by the Mahavishnu Orchestra (featuring English guitarist John McLaughlin) would not only influence his music, but his career as well. Formal studies in jazz and classical music started at the age of sixteen. At this time he became involved with a free form group. He listened to albert Ayler, John Coltrane. He studied Miles Davis' development from the early part of his career through the beginning of the seventies when Davis produced, in a silent way, and bitches brew.

Dissatisfied with the various rock groups he had been touring with, Hellborg turned to more challenging music and solo concerts. In 1981, he was invited to play at the Monteux jazz festival. Michael brecker was impressed by hellborg's playing there and introduced him to many of the jazz greats including his long-time idol John McLaughlin. Hellborg sent him some tapes of his music. In 1982 hellborg created his own record label, day eight, in order to allow him and others to record with full artistic freedom. The first record was hellborg's first solo bass release, "the bassic thing". In May 1983, hellborg joined avant-garde pianist Michael j. Smith and drummer Michael shrieve (of Santana fame) to record day eight's second release, "all our steps". Shortly after this McLaughlin invited hellborg to join the reforming Mahavishnu Orchestra. The first performance hellborg did with McLaughlin was a television show in Paris where they played in trio with Billy Cobham on drums. Early 1984 saw the addition of saxman bill evans and keyboardist Mitch forman and the group released the self-titled album "Mahavishnu". At the same time hellborg released his second solo bass album "elegant punk". Before the first Mahavishnu tour ex - Pat metheny group drummer Danny gottlieb replaced Billy cobham, the group completed two world tours.

 In 1985 Hellborg and McLaughlin started playing duet concerts. In an effort to explore a different musical mood, the two created an intimate chamber music kind of jazz/funk that was almost classical in its texture. Additionally, that same year, hellborg recorded "axis" with parliament/funkadelic keyboardist Bernie worrell, singer Bernard fowler and drummer Anton fier. 1986 saw the release of the second Mahavishnu album, "adventures in radioland" (recorded in milan, italy) and another world tour. In 1987, mclaughlin-hellborg duo toured throughout japan, the US and Europe. In 1988 McLaughlin and hellborg was joined by Indian percussionist Trilok gurtu for a tour of the US. After this tour hellborg left McLaughlin, but he recorded a record called "adfa" with Trilok gurtu and Ulf wakenius (guitar).  After this he moved to New York and formed another trio with Turkish keyboardist Ayden esen and drummer Kenwood dennard. This first incarnation of the Jonas hellborg group toured Europe doing concerts and tv shows but did no recording. The second version was formed by another bass player named Anders nord and electronic drummer Jaime salazar. The trio called "Jonas hellborg group" recorded and toured in 1990. The third version was formed with keyboard player Jens Johansson and drummer Anders johansson both from Yngwie malmsteens rising force. The three Swedish musicians recorded the cd called "e" which is a masterpiece of fusion and heavy-rock music. In 1990 Jens joined dio for a record and a tour.

Their first Indian-flavored disc, 1999’s Zenhouse, was a beautiful, largely serene effort that offered their personal take on the raga form. “My interest in Indian music goes back to my teenage years of being a hippie,” explains Hellborg. “In the late '60s and early '70s, everyone was into Indian music such as the Beatles, Ravi Shankar and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. When I started playing seriously, I was into John McLaughlin. Then I started playing with him and meeting all these great Indian people. So, it's been an ongoing thing for me during my whole career. The first thing that’s obvious for a Westerner is the rhythmic complexity of the music. That was my initial attraction and fascination—the method, teaching, composing and understanding of rhythms. What also really struck me was the melodic aspect of the music, as well as the intricacies, ornamentation and variations.”

Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg
Hellborg’s next effort, 2000’s Good People in Times of Evil, represented a significant leap forward in his approach towards Indian music. Along with Lane, the record featured celebrated Indian percussion master V. Selvaganesh, the son of Vikku Vinayakram, an original member of Shakti. The results were stunning. The album’s singularly inventive and exhilarating musical dialogues cemented Hellborg’s reputation as one of modern music’s most original and intriguing voices.It also laid the groundwork for the equally impressive follow-up Icon, released in 2003. For that project, Hellborg also invited Selvaganesh’s brothers, vocalist V. Umamahesh and percussionist V. Umashankar, to take part. The quintet showcased an even more seamless integration between Western and Indian influences. With its dazzling group interplay, moments of spontaneous drama and graceful, ethereal passages, Icon represents the best of what’s possible within Indian fusion.In the new century Hellborg has in addition to his ongoing work with V. Selvaganesh (latest release Kali’s Son with Sitar maestro Niladri Kumar) started a new Venture with Swedish guitar phenomenon Mattias “IA” Eklundh. Their musical vehicle is the group “Art Metal” juxtaposing Indian Music, “Jazz” with different newer forms of Metal.

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan : Vocal Tone Phrases in Unearthly Ornamentation

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born on October 13, 1948 in the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan. He was the fifth child and first son of Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, a distinguished and legendary musicologist, vocalist, instrumentalist, and Qawwal. Nusrat's family, which included his four older sisters and his younger brother, Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan grew in central Lyallpur, in a small flat which was rented from a local businessman. Qawwali is a performance art that has traditionally been passed down within families. Nusrat's family has an unbroken tradition of performing Qawwali for approximately 600 years. Nusrat's father was initially reluctant to allow him to enter the family business, instead hoping his son would become a doctor or an engineer, having felt Qawwals had a low social status. However, Nusrat's enthusiasm for Qawwali eventually persuaded his father to train him in the art. Nusrat began by learning to play tabla alongside his father before progressing to learn Raag Vidya and Bolbandish. He then went on to learn to sing within the classical framework of khayal in the Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana and was taught dhrupad from the Dagar family. Khan's training with his father was cut short when his father died in 1964, leaving Nusrat's paternal uncles, Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan and Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, to complete his training.

His first concert was at a traditional graveside ceremony for his father, known as chehlum, which took place forty days after his father's death. In 1971, after the death of Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, Nusrat became the official leader of the family Qawwali party and the party became known as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan & Party. Nusrat assumed leadership of the party, despite the fact that Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan, who was Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan's son, was considerably older than him. Nusrat's first public performance as the leader of the Qawwali party was at a studio recording broadcast as part of an annual music festival organized by Radio Pakistan, known as Jashn-e-Baharan. He sang mainly in Urdu and Punjabi and occasionally in Persian, Brajbhasha and Hindi. His first major hit in Pakistan was the song Haq Ali Ali, which was performed in a traditional style and with traditional instrumentation. The song featured restrained use of Nusrat's sargam improvisations and attracted a large number of listeners.

Success in the West
Nusrat reached out to Western audiences through his collaborations with Canadian musician, Michael Brook and his work with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder in 1995 on the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking. He went on to gain popularity in the West through his contributions to the soundtracks of The Last Temptation of Christ and Natural Born Killers, together with his friendship with Peter Gabriel. Nusrat was unhappy with the use of his vocals on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, stating that the nature of the film was contrary to the beliefs and the ideals conveyed in his work.Peter Gabriel's Real World label later released five albums of Nusrat's traditional Qawwali, together with some of his experimental work which included the albums Mustt Mustt and Star Rise. Nusrat provided vocals for The Prayer Cycle, which was put together by Jonathan Elias, but died before the vocals could be completed. Alanis Morissette was brought in to sing with his unfinished vocals. He also performed traditional Qawwali before international audiences at several WOMAD world music festivals and the single Dam Mast Qalandar was remixed by electronic trip hop group Massive Attack in 1998.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Later Years
Nusrat contributed songs to, and performed in, several Pakistani films. Shortly before his death, he recorded a song each for two Bollywood films, Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya (in which he also appeared) and Kachche Dhaage. He also sang the immensely-popular title song of the film, Dhadkan. There was also a song sung by him in the movie Kartoos, starting Sanjay Dutt and Manisha Koirola. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan holds the world record for the largest recorded output by a Qawwali artist—a total of 125 albums. Nusrat was taken ill with kidney and liver failure on August 11, 1997 in London, England while on the way to Los Angeles in order to receive a kidney transplant. Nusrat died of a sudden cardiac arrest at Cromwell Hospital, London, on Saturday, August 16, 1997, aged 48, at the height of his career. His body was returned to Faisalabad, Pakistan and his funeral was attended by thousands of people.

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Dead Can Dance …Music from the lost Tribes and Cultures

Dead Can Dance

 Dead Can Dance combine elements of European folk music -- particularly music from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance -- with ambient pop and worldbeat flourishes. Their music began as collages made from musical lineages, lost tribes and cultures long since forgotten - and by giving new life to so much from the past, they created a genuinely timeless body of work. They shared vocal responsibilities, and while Perry was certainly capable of haunting subtleties and real sonority as a singer, it was more often Gerrard's rhapsodic vocalising that drew the attention of critics and fans. In a sense, Gerrard didn't simply sing for Dead Can Dance: she made sounds with her voice, and turned that experience into something much larger and more far-ranging than mere singing.

Perry's soundscapes blur distinctions between organic and sampled, old and new, drawing on disparate traditions (neo–classical, choral, baroque, and troubadour) and weaving together influences from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean and beyond. Somehow Dead Can Dance managed to create a world of profound artistic integrity while simultaneously appealing to fans of what was termed 'alternative rock' music. And in so doing Dead Can Dance became - over the course of their career - 4AD's most internationally successful artists. Their songs are of lost beauty, regret and sorrow, inspiration and nobility, and of the everlasting human goal of attaining a meaningful existence. Over the course of their career, Dead Can Dance has featured a multitude of members, but two musicians have remained at the core of the band -- guitarist Brendan Perry and vocalist Lisa Gerrard. Perry had previously been the lead vocalist and bassist for the Australian-based punk band the Scavengers, a group that was never able to land a recording contract. In 1979, the band changed its name to the Marching Girls, but still wasn't able to sign a contract. The following year, Perry left the group and began experimenting with electronic music, particularly tape loops and rhythms. In 1981, Perry formed Dead Can Dance with Lisa Gerrard, Paul Erikson, and Simon Monroe. By 1982, Perry and Gerrard decided to relocate to London; Erikson and Monroe decided to stay in Australia.

Within a year, Dead Can Dance had signed a record deal with 4AD. In the spring of 1984, they released their eponymous debut album, comprised of songs the pair had written in the previous four years. By the end of the year, the group had contributed two tracks to It'll End in Tears, the first album by This Mortal Coil, and had released an EP called Garden of the Arcane Delights. In 1985, Dead Can Dance released their second album, Spleen and Ideal. The album helped build their European cult following, peaking at number two on the U.K. indie charts. For the next two years, Dead Can Dance was relatively quiet, releasing only two new songs in 1986, both which appeared on the 4AD compilation Lonely Is an Eyesore. Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, the group's third album appeared in 1986. In 1988, the band released its fourth album, The Serpent's Egg, and wrote the score for the Agustí Villaronga film El Niño de la Luna, which also featured Lisa Gerrard in her acting debut.

Dead Can Dance Lisa Gerrard Brendan Perry
Dead Can Dance

Aion, Dead Can Dance's fifth album, was released in 1990. Also in 1990, the group toured America for the first time, earning rave reviews. The following year, the group was involved in various festivals and theatrical productions. In 1991, the compilation A Passage in Time was released on Rykodisc, making it the first American release of Dead Can Dance music. Early in 1993, the group provided the score to Baraka and contributed songs to Sahara Blue. In the fall of 1993, they released Into the Labyrinth, which became their first proper studio album to receive an American release. Into the Labyrinth was a cult success throughout the U.S. and Europe. It was followed by another American and European tour, which was documented on the 1994 album and film Toward the Within. In 1995, Lisa Gerrard released her debut solo album, The Mirror Pool. In the summer of 1996, Dead Can Dance released Spiritchaser and embarked on an international tour. The duo officially disbanded in 1999; Gerrard continued working as a solo artist and composed music for films such as Heat, The Insider, and Gladiator. Perry also established a solo career, issuing Eye of the Hunter in 2000. In 2001, Rhino released the band's first comprehensive box set, Dead Can Dance 1981-1998. Rumors of their reunion also began to swirl around this time; however, Gerrard's solo career remained steadfast. Dead Can Dance reunited in 2005 and released limited-edition recordings of 13 shows from its European tour, and eight recordings from the subsequent North American tour, as well as a compilation titled “Selections from Europe 2005.”

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Talvin Singh …Eclipse Psychotropic Fusion

Talvin Singh Matharu
Talvin Singh 
Talvin Singh (Matharu) (born in 1970 in Leytonstone, London, England) is a classically proficient tabla player, music producer and DJ. He marries the classic ethnicities of the East with the modern dance-club textures of the West, a style he defines as "tablatronics." Rising to recognition in the mid-1990s, Singh was one of the first to announce Indian music to today’s conventional youth and to simultaneously inspire a new path for emerging electronica artists. But unlike most of his cliques, including some simply taking advantage of the growing interest in Eastern music, Singh aptly uncovers the common rhythms inherent to both forms, and the result sounds fluid and natural, not contrived or forced. He is generally considered to be the 'father' of Asian underground music and was a central figure in developing and promoting this music at the Blue Note club.

Talvin Singh is one of the first artists to help bring traditional Indian tabla music to the mainstream, combining it with the rhythmic surges of drum ‘n’ bass. By 1997, he was able to speak in an assured fashion about the historic place and function of traditional Indian music. Head of the Omni Records label, based in south London, Singh is a virtuoso tabla player and an accomplished composer and arranger. As a child he travelled to India’s Punjab region to study percussion with his uncle and grandfather, before becoming immersed in the acid house scene in the late 80s. The arrival of ambient and drum ‘n’ bass music in the early 90s inspired Singh to begin producing material, and in 1996 he released the ultra-rare Calcutta Cyber Cafe disc. By his early twenties Singh was also a veteran of recording sessions with Björk, Sun Ra and Future Sound of London.

Excluding creative talent and years of practice, a central reason why his compositions and arrangements work so well in comparison to others’ is the fact that Singh views music-making as a personal process. Singh’s exposure to both cultures has likewise played a major role in his ability to identify and articulate the common threads. He was born in 1970 in London to Indian-born parents. His mother and father, after fleeing the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1960s, had arrived in Great Britain via Kenya. From a very young age, Singh felt drawn to both the world of his family’s origin and to the place of his own birth. An energetic child, he expressed a penchant for percussion at an early age, playing pots and pans at home around age five. He then took up the tabla, a percussion instrument made of two drums, at around age seven. Not much later, he also began break dancing to hip-hop with other Asian kids in the neighborhood. By the 1980s, Singh was listening to every type of techno and acid house music he could find.

Talvin Singh dj
DJ Talvin Singh 
In addition to his varied interests, Singh remained dedicated to traditional Indian music and percussion as well. At 16 years of age, he traveled to the Punjab region of India to study classical tabla with the master Pundit Lashman Singh for a year, continuing thereafter to visit his teacher for a time each winter. However, Singh knew that on a certain level, he could not play exclusively Indian classical music. "There have been times in my life when I just wanted to play Indian classical music, but that’s where my identity crisis kicked in," he concluded, as quoted by the BBC. "I didn’t feel it was really me."

Singh released his first solo outing. OK, an East/West fusion album populated by arrangements of strings, breakbeats, and tablas, won for Singh the highly coveted Mercury Music Prize. In addition to solo success with OK and Ha, Singh remains a much-sought-after producer, remixer, performer, and collaborator. Perhaps his greatest achievement in this capacity was accepting an invitation to join Tabla Beat Science, an outfit featuring percussionists Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, and Karsh Kale, sarangi player Sultan Khan, and composer/producer/bassist Bill Laswell. In 2000 the group released Tala Matrix on Laswell’s Axiom label to great acclaim.

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John Butler :One Of The Best Bands You Never Heard Of!

John Charles Butler
John Butler
John Butler is an Australian guitarist, musician, and singer. He fronts the John Butler Trio and the band is very popular in Australia. John Butler’s music is not easily classified but has influences of styles including folk, rock, Eastern, Celtic and bluegrass all rolled into one. He sings and plays a variety of instruments including the guitar, the lap steel guitar, ukulele, banjo and didgeridoo. In 1998 John Butler was busking on the streets of Fremantle, West Australia. 3500 self-funded cassette sales served as the foundation for becoming Australia’s most successful independent artist ever. Fast forward to 2009 and his label Jarrah Records has now been responsible for 800,000 CD sales in Australia.

 John Butler was born in California in 1975– his mother American and his father Australian. After his parents divorced in 1986, John Butler was taken to live in Australia by his father along with his brother and sister. The family moved to the small Western Australia town of Pinjarra where John Butler attended school. John Butler started learning the guitar aged 16 and was given his Grandfather’s 1930 Dobro guitar by his grandmother. This guitar was to be given to the first grandchild in the family to learn the guitar and it is one of John Butler’s most treasured possessions. In 1996 John Butler attended Curtin University Perth to train as an art teacher, but continued with his music. Though he spent the first 11 years of his life in California, it was in Australia -- his father's native land -- that guitarist John Butler picked up the instrument that would later launch his music career.

 One of John Butler’s strongest musical influences was fellow Aussie musician Jeff Lang. John Butler was inspired by Lang’s use of open tunings which gave his music a slightly Indian / Celtic feel and he started to compose his own music in the same way. He started performing in Freemantle, performing his own songs and compositions, selling his home recorded cassettes of his instrumental compositions titled “Searching for Heritage”. He dropped out of university in 1998 to concentrate on his music and after local music promoter Phil Stevens bought his cassette and offered him a regular spot at his Mojos nightclub in Freemantle, John Butler quickly gathered a fan base and Stevens became his manager. John Butler formed the trio in 1998 with the addition of bass player and drummer and recorded first album “John Butler” in 1998.  However, the breakthrough came with the bands second album “Three”, released in 2001, which later went Platinum. “Sunrise over the Sea” followed in 2004 was awarded 5 x Platinum and is the most successful album to date. “Grand National” from 2007 and “April Uprising” released 2010 have also reached number one is Australia and gone Platinum. The band has also released two successful live albums. John Butler has started playing outside of his native Australia but has yet to become a household name aboard.

John Charles Wiltshire Butler
John Charles Butler
In 2009 he toured the US and also played a couple of dates in the UK including the Cambridge folk festival. Still partnered with Jarrah Records, the indie label that he and fellow Aussies the Waifs had founded in order to distribute their music overseas, Butler released Grand National worldwide in March 2007. Grand National was an ambitious project, featuring more instruments than the band's past releases, as well as multiple guest appearances. It was also the last album to feature band members Shannon Birchall and Michael Barker, as Butler restructured the trio's lineup in 2009 in order to keep the music fresh. Featuring bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Nicky Bomba, the revised John Butler Trio returned to the studio later that year to commence work on April Uprising, the band's fifth studio album, which was released in early 2010. While touring later that year, the group recorded a particularly memorable performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater, which was packaged into a three-disc live album and released in 2011 as Live at Red Rocks.

John Butler is known as the million dollar hippy after making it onto the Australia rich list and he has won numerous Australian music industry awards including Best Male Artist in 2004. JBT have taken their music to the world and continue to grow in stature and popularity in USA, Europe and Japan. They have become favorites at iconic festivals such as Fuji Rock Festival, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Big Day Out, and Coachella where Bruce Fessier of USA Today said “John Butler revealed himself to be arguably the finest guitarist at Coachella Festival“.

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Paradox Trio …. Melding of Jazz and Creative Improvisation

Paradox Trio
Paradox Trio

New York based PARADOX TRIO creates original music inspired by Eastern European, Balkan, Gypsy and downtown traditions. In the last seven years the quartet has toured and played major festivals throughout the U.S., Europe and Canada. The group’s dynamic performances and approach cut across stylistic and geographic boundaries creating an unusual and eclectic sound, redefining the concept “world beat”. The group features Matt Darriau on two unique and lyrical Bulgarian instruments, the Kaval (end-blown flute, like the Arabic ney) and the Gaida (bagpipe) as well as saxes and clarinets. With Brad Shepik on guitars, Rufus Cappadocia on cello and Seido Salifoski on dumbek. Matt Darriau was named one of the most influental jazz musicians of thelast fifteen years by Jazziz Magazine for bringing balkan rhythms and melodies into jazz. The quartet continued without a lineup change throughout the '90s and well into the 2000s.

Along with Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio, Pachora, and Brad Shepik & the Commuters (all including Shepik), during the '90s Paradox Trio were in the forefront of New York groups melding an edgy downtown sensibility with Eastern European and Middle Eastern influences. The group became known for its rousing shows at the Bell Café in New York's Soho (Tiny Bell Trio derived its name from the same venue) and the Knitting Factory, the well-known downtown club whose label released the ensemble's eponymous first CD in 1995. The band was one of the first to give traditional ethnic music a distinctly downtown flavor. Certainly, Darriau was in the first wave of artists to introduce Eastern European and Middle Eastern melodies, scales, and rhythms into the downtown mix. The third Paradox Trio CD on the Knitting Factory label, Source, aptly summarized the multicultural influences defining much of Darriau's recorded output; the 1999 album found the group exploring music of the late-period Ottoman Empire, where the East and West met and co-mingled, forever influencing art and culture throughout most of the 20th century. Source and the band's other Knitting Factory discs have unfortunately gone out of print, but Paradox was still going strong as of the mid-2000s, with club and festival appearances and the release of 2005's Gambit on the Enja label.

Paradox have also performed live in accompaniment to classic silent films; an excerpt from the band's performance of Darriau's score to the Salvador Dali/Luis Buñuel surrealist landmark Un Chien Andalou can be heard on the What Is Jazz? 1996 CD, which features live tracks from various artists who performed at the Knitting Factory's creative jazz fest that year. While often considered primarily a creative outlet for Darriau, Paradox Trio have served as an important working group for all four of its members, with Shepik second to Darriau in contributing arrangements for the band. As Shepik continued to increase his involvement -- both as leader and sideman -- in other groups during the new millennium, guitarist Dave Fiuczynski (Screaming Headless Torsos, Hasidic New Wave) would sometimes replace him as Paradox Trio's guitarist in live appearances.

Paradox Trio
Paradox Trio
During the 2000s, after the heyday of the downtown scene had passed, New York's "Gypsy punk" bands began receiving considerable attention from Brooklyn live music scenesters and music critics -- Paradox Trio could easily be seen as forefathers of the Gypsy punkers, albeit with a stronger jazz sensibility. In fact, in terms of direct connections, accordionist Yuri Lemeshev of Gogol Bordello has been in the Paradox orbit, performing live with the band on various occasions (and also touring in a duo with Darriau), and Slavic Soul Party!, another band of the 2000s often included under the "Gypsy punk" rubric, included Darriau in a touring lineup.

The journey of paradox trio is unmatched by any other contempory group mixing traditional eastern European sounds. The expected becomes the unexpected when Matt Darriau, the leader of this talented ensemble, takes tradition into Jazz and Ambient and sometimes what seems like hard rock. A extremely intelligent band with provocative and energetic music through deep roots to keep its soaring heights connected to something substantial.

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Susheela Raman ...Rejoicing the fender-bender of Musical Cultures

Susheela Raman World Fusion Music Artist
Susheela Raman

‘How many roads have I wandered/none and each my own/behind me the bridges have crumbled/where then will I call my home?’

That is the resonant challenge at the Centre of Raman’s music. She creates a new identity though her voice, culture and song. Raman is Indian, Tamil, Eng-lish, a Londoner, a European, An Asian and Australian to boot! Born in London to Tamil parents and raised in Australia she grew up in a home full of Carnatic music (the South Indian classical tradition). Teenage rebellion led her towards black American soul, blues and funk and at just 16 she was leading her own funk and soul band in Sydney. In ´97 she moved to London and met guitarist and producer Sam Mills renowned for his work with African and Bangladeshi musicians. They started to develop a new sound drawing on Indian and western influences and encompassing English songs, Sanskrit texts, their own compositions and reinventions of songs from the Carnatic repertoire. Three years of rich experimentation resulted in “Salt Rain”, her Mercury Music Prize nominated 2001 debut.
World music's latest darling and 2002 winner of the BBC Radio 3's Newcomer Award, Susheela Raman flipped the script on world music hybrids when she released Salt Rain in 2001. The album was everything you could want in a cross-genre effort: intelligent, nuanced and, best of all, never watered down. As an artist Raman continues to develop, exploring issues of identity with new sounds that celebrate multiplicity. She draws her collaborators from across Europe, Asia and Africa: Cameroonian bassist Hilaire Penda, Guinea-Bissau born percussionist Djanuno Dabo, American drummer Marque Gilmore, British-Asian tabla player Aref Durvesh and of course British guitarist and producer Sam Mills are at the heart of this album as they were Salt Rain. And again this record is about great songs imaginatively played and beautifully sung. If Raman’s voice on Salt Rain had a charming, perishable naivety and Love Trap reflected the strains of touring, Raman’s voice here serves notice of an artist entering her prime, her singing richer and stronger than ever before.

Paradoxically, the record is, both more English and more Indian than Salt Rain and Love Trap. More than half the songs are in English (her first language) and Raman emerges as a formidable songwriter. And where on the previous albums there were musicians from everywhere playing Indian songs, here we have musicians from India playing songs in English. A new dimension came from recording in India, as well as in the UK and France. The Indian presence adds joy, light and depth to the record. Oddly, this is her first record to feature musicians from India.

Susheela Raman World Fusion Music Artist
Susheela Raman World Fusion Music Artist

 It’s difficult to say where the Indian, African and European elements begin and end. Everything overlaps and intermingles. With a justified reputation as an incandescent live performer, Susheela has made five classic albums: After ‘Salt Rain” (2001) came ‘Love Trap’ (2003) which was recorded in Spain and featured her version of ‘ the Mukesh classic ‘Ye Mera Divanapan Hai’ which was used by Mira Nair in her film “The Namesake”. ‘Music for Crocodiles’ (2005)  was her third album and was recorded partly in Chennai. That was the time I really started to make music in India, an adventure that is still unfolding. She took a interesting step in 2007, recording ‘33 1/3’ in Iceland (!) which was an album of reinterpretations of some classic rock tracks such as Dylan ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, and ‘Voodoo Chile’: It wasn’t about doing ‘covers’, it was about trying to take each song somewhere quite different. All her albums chart a personal relationship with musical history and her own role as a conduit where musical oceans meet. Each Susheela album is a big vision that retains its freshness and uniqueness for a long time to come. “I find new people are discovering, sharing my previous album all the time. I’m glad each has their own life.”

Susheela has always made music a vehicle of emotion with the same intensity of purpose that she offers herself and her music and to her audience. The songs she writes and interpret can come from any background, east, north, south or west. The key is that she makes them her own and then shares them, fashioning both into spears that penetrate the soul.
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Ottmar Liebert : Leaning Into the Night

A five-time Grammy Award nominee Ottmar Liebert
Ottmar Liebert

Ottmar Liebert has said that "flamenco is a music both romantic and dangerous; it is an attitude as much as it is a musical genre." Therein lies the philosophy that catapulted him to fame at the end of the 80's with an engaging mix of subdued flamenco guitar and South American percussion, rock, jazz, and pop influences. Liebert's "attitude" actually suppresses the more challenging and "dangerous" aspects of flamenco in favor of the romantic -- and the stylish. He's not a technical wizard on the guitar, but he has a feel for the music's innate sensuality and a gift for creating memorable melodies.

Liebert’s incredible global success on a musical level often seems like a simple outgrowth of his cultural background and powerful wanderlust in his formative years. Born in Cologne, Germany, to a Chinese-German father and a Hungarian mother, Liebert traveled throughout Russia and Asia before moving to Boston and eventually settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After years of trying to hit the big time in various jazz-funk bands, he began playing acoustic guitar in Santa Fe restaurants. His first (self-produced) cassette, Nouveau Flamenco, was basically recorded for friends, but the album received heavy radio airplay on WAVE in Los Angeles. Higher Octave Records re-released it nationally in 1990. After his subsequent album Borrasca quickly climbed the charts, Liebert was picked up by a major label, Epic. With his enigmatic stage presence, Liebert has brought flamenco to mainstream America with a certain level of class and accessibility. His prowess as a composer and instrumentalist has steadily improved over the years.

By 1989, he had founded the first incarnation of his new band Luna Negra. Nouveau Flamenco began life as a self-produced local release called Marita: Shadows and Storms, copies of which local Indian artist Frank Howell distributed in his art galleries. When the record found its way to radio stations and began generating a buzz among programmers and an unprecedented response among listeners, Higher Octave Music picked it up and released a fully remastered version.

“I was honestly happy playing this music in hotels and restaurants in Santa Fe, and going in one year from doing that to opening for Miles Davis was a pretty intense jump,” he recalls. “Most shocking for me was to realize how many different people from so many diverse cultures embraced it. I still get letters from fans in Europe, South-America, Australia, and Asia...it’s been a really gratifying experience. I’ve had the opportunity to play in a wide variety of cultural settings with musicians from around the world, and that has been a great experience, too.”

Ottmar Liebert
Ottmar Liebert

Liebert has since become one of the most successful instrumental artists of the past decade, thrilling audiences throughout the world and releasing a catalog of classic recordings, including the remix collection Euphoria (1995), the live album Viva! (1995), the double CD Opium (1996) and the classical-oriented orchestral album Leaning into the Night (1997). He wrapped up his decade with Epic with 2001’s Little Wing and went back to Higher Octave Music, releasing a lush album of lullabies called In the Arms of Love in 2002 and an album with Luna Negra XL called The Santa Fe Sessions (2003).

La Semana (2004) was the first all-new band album in five years, followed by Winter Rose (2005), which featured original pieces, classical music and Christmas songs. In 2006 Liebert's record label SSRI released One Guitar, his first solo guitar recording, which received Liebert's fourth nomination for a Grammy. His newest releases are Up Close (2008), which is a binaural dummy head surround sound recording, and The Scent of Light (2008) a labor of five years. Five time Grammy nominated guitarist Ottmar Liebert has release some of the most successful instrumental guitar albums ever, with more Gold and Platinum certifications than any other acoustic guitarist. (RIAA)

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Jan Garbarek ...The Sound Of Silence

Jan Garbarek  Norwegian tenor and soprano saxophonist
Jan Garbarek Saxophone

 The Norwegian saxophone player, Jan Garbarek had an early breakthrough into the elite of modern jazz in the 60's, due to his extensive cooperation with Keith Jarrett. His name is listed next to the big names from the U.S. and is associated with the birth of an original European sound in jazz. His tone is clear, independent, ascetic and pure. "The north and nature, song and mystery" are what Garbarek calls his origins and these are his reputable heritage. If it wasn't for his strong inner connection with Norwegian folklore, he wouldn't be able to integrate Brazilian and Asiatic influences as convincingly as he does. That the origin of all music lies in song, is to be felt in many of his compositions, and his greatest attention lies on melody and on the clear articulation of melodious-lines, that he plays with unmistakable impressive urgency.

 "In my best moments I hope to give meaning to every note".

Jan Garbarek's Chamber music-Jazz might well be the most beautiful sound next to silence, and he, as sculptor of these sounds, is entrancingly connected with the illustrative and folkloristic qualities and influences. He is an original stylist always searching for new realms for his intense and extremely visual music.
Jan Garbarek (born 4 March 1947 in Mysen, Norway) is a Norwegian tenor and soprano saxophonist, active in the jazz, classical, and world music genres. Garbarek was the only child of a former Polish prisoner of war Czeslaw Garbarek and a Norwegian farmer's daughter. Effectively stateless until the age of seven (there is no automatic grant of citizenship in Norway) Garbarek grew up in Oslo. At 21, he married Vigdis. His daughter Anja Garbarek is also a musician.

Norwegian tenor and soprano saxophonist Jan Garbarek Jazz
 Norwegian tenor and soprano saxophonist

Garbarek's sound is one of the hallmarks of the ECM record label, which has released virtually all of his recordings. His style incorporates a sharp-edged tone, long, keening, sustained notes, and generous use of silence. He began his recording career in the late 1960s, notably featuring on recordings by the American jazz composer George Russell (such as Othello Ballet Suite and Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature). If he had initially appeared as a devotee of Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, by 1973 he had turned his back on the harsh dissonances of avant-garde jazz, retaining only his tone from his previous approach. Garbarek gained wider recognition through his work with pianist Keith Jarrett's European Quartet which released the albums Belonging (1974), My Song (1977) and the live recordings Personal Mountains (1979), and Nude Ants (1979).[2] He was also a featured soloist on Jarrett's orchestral works Luminessence (1974) and Arbour Zena (1975)[3]

As a composer, Garbarek tends to draw heavily from Scandinavian folk melodies, a legacy of his Ayler influence. He is also a pioneer of ambient jazz composition, most notably on his 1976 album Dis a collaboration with guitarist Ralph Towner that featured the distinctive sound of a wind harp on several tracks. This textural approach, which rejects traditional notions of thematic improvisation (best exemplified by Sonny Rollins) in favor of a style described by critics Richard Cook and Brian Morton as "sculptural in its impact", has been critically divisive. Garbarek's more meandering recordings are often labeled as New Age music, a style generally scorned by more orthodox jazz musicians and listeners, or spiritual ancestors thereof. Other experiments have included setting a collection of poems of Olav H. Hauge to music, with a single saxophone complementing a full mixed choir; this has led to notable performances with Grex Vocalist, but not yet to recordings. In the 1980s, Garbarek's music began to incorporate synthesizers and elements of world music. He has collaborated with Indian and Pakistani musicians such as Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan.

In 1994, during heightened popularity of Gregorian chant, his album Officium, a collaboration with early music vocal performers the Hilliard Ensemble, became one of ECM's biggest-selling albums of all time, reaching the pop charts in several European countries and was followed by a sequel, Mnemosyne, in 1999. In 2005, his album In Praise of Dreams was nominated for a Grammy. Garbarek's first live album Dresden was released in 2009. In his compositions and improvisations Jan Garbarek is a master of unbelievable tuneful music that cuts right into our soul. His concerts develop in a highly organic manner providing a wide ark of rising tension. This music sounds simple and complex at the same time, this music is hymnal and sparse, playful and serious, immersed and exceptionally open, intense rather than sentimental.

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