From Lahore to Lincoln Center: Jazz from Pakistan

Nijat Ali, the conductor and co-arranger of the Sachal Jazz Ensemble (courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center)

The first thing you see and hear in a YouTube clip of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” as recorded by the Sachal Jazz Ensemble in Lahore, Pakistan, is Ballu Khan breaking the song’s familiar five-beat meter into furiously quick subdivisions on tabla, the hand drums endemic to Hindustani classical music. Cut to Indrajit Roy-Chowdhury, seated cross-legged atop a small wooden table, stating and then elegantly bending the melody; next, bearded men, clad in spotless white kurtas, sitting straight-backed on chairs and playing violins and cellos. In 2011, that YouTube video went viral, attracting nearly a half-million hits. Soon after, the Sachal Ensemble’s “Take Five,” from its recording “Interpretations of Jazz Standards and Bossa Nova,” shot to the top of the iTunes chart in the U.S. and U.K.
When the Sachal Ensemble joins the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) at Manhattan’s Rose Theater on November 22 and 23, the concerts will deepen a recent collaboration and extend an unlikely journey. Read my feature story here.

Now Playing….


Wherein I’m hearing Keith Jarrett, messing around in his home studio in 1986, Ran Blake, alone at the piano, as recorded in 1965, and more:
Keith Jarrett No End (ECM, Nov. 26): ECM has been revealing many facets of Jarrett’s musicality during the past year: 2013 brought us “Hymns/Spheres,” a reissue of Jarrett’s organ work; “Somewhere,” a delightful and recent concert recording from Jarrett’s trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette; and “J.S. Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano,” with Michelle Makarski. Soon to come, I’m told is a 3-CD edition of Jarrett’s 1981 improvised concerts in Austria and Germany. All that music arrives with context. But “No End,” which will be released next week, is a pure curiosity. Here’s how the press release describes it: “illuminating hitherto undocumented aspects of Keith Jarrett’s music, recorded at his home in 1986. Piano plays but a cameo role, and instead he is heard on electric guitars, electric bass, drums and percussion, overdubbing tribal dances of his own devising.” Really. And 2 CDs of it. On first listen, it’s hard not to be struck by just how much Jarrett’s approach to electric guitar seems to reflect Jerry Garcia’s. And yet there’s an interesting rhythmic dynamic, at once meditative and insistent, that is pure Keith. I’ll keep listening. Continue reading “Now Playing….”