Sunday, July 2, 2017

USA: Brooklyn Raga Massive-Coltrane Raga Tribute(2017)

Brooklyn Raga Massive | Coltrane Raga Tribute In celebration of the Coltrane Legacy the dynamic Indian Classical and Raga-inspired music collective Brooklyn Raga Massive, pay tribute to his legacy through their interpretation of his music. John Coltrane remains a pivotal force in the styles of modal jazz, avant-garde jazz, hard-bop and world music. Through his truly unique music, Coltrane bridged seemingly disparate cultures the way only few figures in modern music ever did. With records like Om and songs like India, Coltrane and his legacy have led a movement towards bringing Indian music influences closer to the world of Jazz music.


Compositions and Publishing - JOWCOL Music
Tracks 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 composed by John Coltrane
Tracks 1, 3, 6, composed by Alice Coltrane
Track 9 originally composed by John Coltrane and co-composed by Alice Coltrane

Coltrane Raga Tribute
Trina Basu - Violin
Marc Cary - Piano (5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Brandee Younger - Harp
Jay Gandhi - Bansuri
Arun Ramamurthy - Carnatic Violin
Abhik Mukherjee - Sitar (5, 7, 9)
Sameer Gupta - Drums
Pawan Benjamin - Sax
Anupam Shobhakar - Sarod (2)
Neel Murgai - Sitar (3)
Rashaan Carter - Bass (1, 2, 3, 4)
Michael Gam - Bass
Ben Tyree - Guitar

“I like Ravi Shankar very much. When I hear his music, I want to copy it- not note for note of course, but in his spirit. What brings me closest to Ravi is the modal aspect of his art. Currently, at the particular stage I find myself in, I seem to be going through a modal phase. I’ve gone through several periods, you know. There was a point when I was going through a chord phase, back when I recorded Giant Steps. Now I’m in my modal phase. There’s a lot of modal music that is played everyday throughout the world.. It’s particularly evident in Africa but if you look at Spain or Scotland, India or China that’s what you’ll find every moment. If you want to look beyond the differences in style, you will confirm that there is a common base. That’s very important. Certainly the popular music of England is not that of South America, but take away their pure ethnic characteristics- that is, their folkloric aspect-and you’ll discover the presence of the same pentatonic sonority, of comparable modal structures. It’s the universal aspect of music that interests me and attracts me; that’s where I want to go.”

John Coltrane, 11/17/62

John Coltrane (1926-1967) saxophonist, composer, mystic was one of the most influential musicians, in any genre, of the last 60 years. He spent significant time apprenticing in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk and various RnB artists. He formed his first quartet in 1960, featuring McCoy Tyner on piano, Steve Davis, bass, and Elvin Jones, drums. From the onset, they sounded like a group that had been together for a moment. Coltrane was very happy to be striking out on his own, playing the music he wanted to play with the musicians he wanted to play with. On October 24, 1960, Coltrane took this group into Atlantic Records studio in mid town New York and recorded enough material for what became three records: Coltrane’s Sound, Coltrane Plays the Blues and My Favorite Things. Three very different records encapsulated every musical concept he had been working on up to that moment: compositions built on chord progressions and modal progressions as well as re-harmonized standards. The music is so positively uplifting and full of the life force that moves us to be the best we can be. Coltrane is really feeling it, you can hear the collective celebration of a new outlook on his creativity and art. The soulful, singing, ecstatic lyricism of his playing is absolutely inspiring. These records were major statements about where jazz was going, immediately placing Coltrane at the forefront of what was really happening in the music. What is also significant about these records is the introduction of Coltrane’s soprano saxophone conjuring. The sonority and exotica of the straight horn seemed to instantly galvanize Coltrane’s concept. During this time he studied Sidney Bechet, seminal New Orleans soprano sax/clarinet master, and then he discovered Bismillah Khan, the Shenai virtuoso from North Indian Classical music. Khan’s influence on Coltrane is evident. His tone, phrasing and articulation speaks to this influence. His re-imagining of “My Favorite Things” into a Raga, was an artistic and commercial breakthrough. It was a major hit for him as it let musicians and listeners know the commonality of music. Many folks had no idea the song was from the Broadway musical the Sound of Music. Coltrane re-cast the tune in a completely different context, triggering a shift in the collective consciousness of anyone who heard it. The incantatory hypnotic intensity of any version of the song played by his Quartet is some of the best music human beings have ever made. Coltrane was serving notice that he was onto his next important phase and field of study. It would involve the music of other cultures, most significantly Africa and India.
John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar first met in NYC sometime between 61-62 while the latter was on tour. He had been listening closely to Shankar’s music and had been adapting some of the methods used by Indian classical musicians, more subconsciously than formally. Shankar was the first Indian Classical musician to fully introduce the music of his culture to the West. His recording, “The Sounds of India” (Columbia) was a major influence on many musicians and Shankar’s subsequent tours of the US found him playing before enthusiastic audiences everywhere. Coltrane and Shankar became pen pals and life long friends. Unfortunately, there are no known examples of them playing together. It seems strange that they never did, if that is indeed true. It would have been an amazing listening experience but no recordings exist. Coltrane knew it would’ve worked, though. In an interview with french writer Bernard Postif, he said, “I collect the records he’s made, and his music moves me. I’m certain that if I recorded with him I’d increase my possibilities tenfold, because I am familiar with what he does and I understand and appreciate his work.” He would spend the rest of his life emboldened and inspired by the cultural and musical concepts of India.
Coltrane’s music after 1961 seems to reflect what he liked most about Indian music: the intriguing modes which inspired his intense melodic explorations, the raga form (utilized in his extended compositions, A Love Supreme and the magnificent Suite: Prayer and Meditation (Transition, Impulse), the driving polyrhythms and contemplative/spiritual mood Indian classical music always conveys. He combined these with the compositional/improvisational concepts of AfroAmerican modern jazz to produce a style of music yet to be equaled in manic intensity, raw emotional commitment and transcendental enlightenment. Tunes like “Afro Blue”, “India”, “Ole”, “Chim Chim Cheree” are all Ragas, to this writer. Even his late period music, with all of its abstract sound design and multi directional space/time flow, has the feeling of a Raga. India spoke to John Coltrane and his wife Alice, who is also a major inspiration. Raga-inspired Jazz is something she’s been doing since the late ‘60s. She deserves as much credit as her husband does for combining aspects of Indian music and jazz. Their influence is pervasive and now has come full circle with the Brooklyn Raga Massive collective interpreting the compositions of the visionary saxophonist in honor of his 90th birthday.
The collective, guided by Sameer Gupta, is committed to revealing the beauty and intensity of North Indian Classical Music and it's only fitting that they would produce an album celebrating the music of a musician equally committed to the same ideals. Their reworking of such compositions as “Alabama” and “Living Space”, utilizing Sitar, Sarod, Bansuri, Tabla and strings with more traditional jazz instrumentation (drum set, saxophone, piano) is a major revelation. The group has achieved the rare feat of honoring a great artist’s contributions with respect and reverence while pushing the boundaries of creativity. Brooklyn Raga Massive is building on the Raga-inspired jazz legacy that Coltrane and his wife started. Hopefully, they will continue to interpret the master’s compositions and reveal to us the commonality of world cultures. This is an idea that inspired Coltrane. It is an idea that continues to inspire those of us seeking the truth of this lifetime. Happy Birthday John Coltrane and thank you Brooklyn Raga Massive for honoring the music of a man who stood for positivity and love.


-David Boyce, San Francisco 9/16/16

All quotes come from the books Coltrane on Coltrane, the Coltrane Interviews, edited by Chris DeVito (Chicago Review Press) and John Coltrane, His Life and Music by Lewis Porter (Michigan)


Brooklyn Raga Massive is a collective of forward thinking musicians rooted in or inspired by the classical music of India. Since 2012 BRM has held a weekly concert series and jam session, featuring classical Indian performances and experiments with contemporary music and world music traditions. The inclusive and spontaneous sessions have created a strong community of world class musicians and dedicated fans, and has been an incubator of new genres of music indigenous to Brooklyn.


Special Thanks to Pioneer Works, Littlefield, World Music Institute
James Clark - Live Audio
Sachyn Mittal - Photography
Sameer Gupta - Mixing, Mastering Engineer