Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Review--Deepak Ram's Steps

Deepak Ram

Golden Horn Records

Imagine John Coltrane's Giant Steps played on a bansuri flute (India) backed by a bossa nova rhythms played on guitar and percussion, and that describes flutist Deepak Ram's latest CD, Steps. Since Indian classical music and jazz both rely on improvisation, this is not the first time the two traditions wed. And the overall musical marriage wraps a warm blanket of dreamy revelry around its listeners.

This album feels good as it lifts the energy in the room. Not only that, Deepak and those musicians who came on board, Tony Marino, Vic Juris and Jamey Haddad know their way around jazz classics. Besides, Coltrane's Giant Steps and Naima (off of the same Coltrane album), Deepak also brings in Miles Davis' All Blues, Gershwin's Summertime, Darius Brubeck's October and Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodger's My Funny Valentine. Deepak contributes his two original pieces, Madiba's Dance and Blues for Shyam Babu.

While a jazz-Hindustani fusion is not new to my ears or to global music fans in general, Deepak's repertoire still has the power to amaze and dazzle. A bansuri flute does not resemble a saxophone, trumpet or even a standard flute. The bamboo flute which has its limitations playing western jazz, lends itself extraordinarily well to micro tonal Indian classical music. However, Deepak successfully meets the challenge of bridging these two worlds which results in spectacular universal music.

Perhaps Coltrane's love of Indian music and world music in general has come full circle. Deepak grew up listening to Coltrane and Miles Davis in Africa, but went onto study bansuri flute with Indian classical flute masters, including Hariprasad Charasia. Coltrane discovered Indian classical music early in his career, which sent him soaring in a new spiritual direction.

Steps is one of those CDs that will surprise you. It is accessible and sophisticated at the same time, with plenty of world fusion where Brazil, India and the U.S. build a peaceful bond. You just can't feel bad listening to this one.

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