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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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21 Spices

Art of Groove MIG 80012 CD



1. Peace of Five
2. 1-2 Beaucoup
3. Kuruk Setra
4. Balahto
5. Broken Rhythms
6. Jhulelal
7. 21 Spices

Trilok Gurtu - Percussion, vocals
Simon Phillips - Drums
Michel Alibo - Bass
Roland Cabezas - Guitar
NDR Big Band conducted by Jrg Achim Keller


It was a revelation to me when I first saw Trilok Gurtu - performing in Paris as a member of Oregon. Trilok played the drums from a kneeling position, and created all kinds of percussive effects by such devices as playing a cymbal immersed in a bowl of water. He was a phenomenal percussionist then and he still is, as this album shows.

He is joined by English drummer Simon Phillips (son of Dixieland bandleader Sid Phillips), well-known from his work with such bands and musicians as Toto, Brian Eno, Mike Oldfield and Stanley Clarke. But the focus is primarily on Trilok Gurtu, who plays five different drums including tabla and djembe, as well as the conventional drum kit. The photo on the centre spread of the sleeve-note depicts Trilok and Simon with an amazing array of percussion, backed by the German NDR Big Band.

The album begins gently with Gurtu on tabla backed by an undercurrent like the drone in Indian music. In fact Trilok's Indian background is evident throughout the album, particularly in the complex rhythms which match the intricacy of the Indian tala. The fusion of jazz with Indian beats would not work without the precision of the NDR band, which manages some extremely complicated rhythms, often at very fast tempos. Peace of Five rises to a powerful crescendo before sinking back into restrained calm.

1-2 Beaucoup has the added appeal of Trilok's vocal chattering to match the beat and an impressive bass guitar solo from Michel Alibo. The high-speed bass and the jazz-rock beat have the overall effect (here and on several other tracks) of Weather Report mingled with Indian rhythms - and this piece is actually dedicated to Weather Report's Joe Zawinul

Kuruk Setra continues the jazz-fusion approach, with Vladyslav Sendecki's Fender Rhodes solo accompanied by multi-textured percussion. Balahto (the only piece not composed by Gurtu) has exremely elaborate rhythms set up by Trilok on the cajon (a percussion istrument like a rectangular wooden box) and maintained by the skilful orchestra. Broken Rhythms means just what the title implies: even more complex metres which illustrate the immaculate technique of the NDR orchestra.

Jhulelal allows Trilok and Simon to exchange persussive challenges after a guitar-hero solo from Roland Cabezas, while the closing title-track provides solos for trumpet, guitar and tenor sax.

Hearing this album makes me wonder why we in the West were unaware for so long of the riches of Indian music. Thanks to the Beatles and musicians like Ravi Shankar, we were belatedly introduced to a musical style whose virtuosity Trilok Gurtu exemplifies so brilliantly. And this album reveals how Indian music can blend intriguingly with jazz and big band traditions. Incidentally, the album gets its title from the number of musicians who take part.

Tony Augarde

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