[shakti]   review fromreview from vijay choksi   

Debatably about a hundred years old, the Jazz genre of music went down a wild road, in the process establishing some of the greatest world-famous musicians and vocalists and giving birth to a number of sub-genres, each with its own stubborn pride and roots. Jazz has its academic definition, which would undoubtedly result in a heated argument among the hardcore enthusiasts and musicians. So what is jazz? Louis Armstrong: Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know.

No matter the evolution of jazz and no matter how seceding the sub-genres are, jazz musicians would agree on one thing: no other type of genre form is purely based on human emotion and interaction. Out comes an album mysteriously just called "miles_gurtu." And for those who can place those names to the right people, that's more than enough to make an initial impact of curiosity and anticipation. Miles, Robert Miles, is the man behind the 1996 club megahit "Children," a smooth pianist, eclectic radio producer, and the frontrunner in the electronic dream music realm. Trilok Gurtu is the master classical Indian music composer of unparalleled ingenuity, capo di tutti capi of percussion, and a prominent influence to groundbreakers such as Talvin Singh and the Asian Dub Foundation.

What we have from this Shakti Records release is a musical excursion of a cross between jazz and IDM with a plethora of other elements and styles intricately incorporated inside the music. With Miles primarily in charge of keyboard, sound design and production while Gurtu on drums and percussion, we are presented with music held together with creativity, experimentation, undisputed talent, passion, and emotion, and most importantly, the improvisational interaction between the musicians. Golden Rust starts us off, setting the direction of the album to "jazz with a little twist" with the feature of the light string inclusions by the Urban Soul Orchestra. "Wearing Masks" and "Tragedy:Comedy" show us the various styles incorporated, the first being a percussion-less ambient piece with the smooth combination guitar, bass, and electronic-effects, and the latter being a battle between the electric guitar and haphazard percussion, showing the true essence of experimentation and originality (note: guitar played by Nitin Sawhney). Both these tracks are short; half the album is made up of these short but solid "stints" of musical expression. The middle tracks such as "Languages of Conscious Thought" are very reminiscent of Tabla Beat Science as Trilok Gurtu plays the tabla. The later tracks get a more uptempo like "Small World" with a housey beat and "The Big Picture" with jazzified drum + bass.

But this Drum + Bass doesn't equal "asian influenced electronica." This album is far from that genre. Whatever you'd like to call it, the bottom line is that it has the quintessence feature of jazz: it tends to invite the listener into the music, involve the listener in the interaction between the musicians, and have the listener experience what is being communicated with the music. And all that is done by the other set of fundamentals: improvisation, experimentation, and mere emotion. The music is first created in the mind, inspired by passion, guided by other musicians, critiqued by the audience all at the same time. A form is not followed; it is created. "miles_gurtu" and jazz, as Whitney Balliett put it is just the "sound of surprise." It's already too late to judge.

ethnotechno rating: 3.5 out of 5
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  1. Golden Rust
  2. Soul Driven
  3. Wearing Masks (pick)
  4. Tragedy:Comedy
  5. Omen (pick)
  6. Loom
  7. Languages of Conscious Thought
  8. Without a doubt
  9. Small World
  10. Small World (Reprise)
  11. Inductive (pick)
  12. The Big Picture
  13. Xenon