December 2008

Saawun & Monsoon
at the second annual Toronto Indo-Jazz Festival
December 17, 2008 Trane Studio Toronto
Indo-Jazz Fest Sophomore Year Success
by Tova G. Kardonne with photos by Roger Humbert
People get enthused. They start something, put a lot of work into it, and unveil it as the “first annual” event in what they foresee to be a long series of events. A lot of first annuals never reach their second year, but not this time, ladies and gentlemen. The Toronto Indo-Jazz Festival lives, and continues to provide music scholarships to children in rural India, as well as showcasing the rich fusion of two great traditions.
The festival was a bit scaled down as compared to last year’s which was held in the capacious den at Hugh’s Room, featuring Shantanu Bhattacharya and others, brought in from India to cover the Indian Classical side of the sound. This year’s Fest was cozily situated in the Trane Studio and featured artists from closer to home. The first of the two nights of music kept to the same elegant structure as last year, with a first set more Indian Classical and the second set tending more towards a fusion with Jazz.
Jonathan Kay & Andrew Kay
Though the sounds changed, the personnel varied but little between the first and second sets. Saawun, who opened the evening, was comprised of festival founders Justin Gray on electric bass, and Jonathan Kay on bansuri (traditional flute), as well as Jon’s brother Andrew Kay on soprano sax, and Ravi Naimpalli on tabla. Jon opened the set with a solo on bansuri that melded into a solo by Andrew on sax. The unity of intention was seamless, as though one instrument played a many-tiered improvised piece, brightening its timbre from flute to sax as an element of its escalating drama. Ravi, as he is known to do, followed the rhythms of the solos with seemingly telepathic facility, and his own solo built the energy to a nice climax at the repeated ti-hai ending-section. Featuring tunes by Guru Shantanu Battacharyya, Ravi Shakar and Yehudi Menouin, as well as a few originals by band members, Saawun’s set was a skillful and enchanting peek at the more traditional sounds that require such devotion to master.

The second set featured the fusion stylings of Monsoon. Gray, Andrew Kay (on alto sax as well), Jonathan Kay (now adding tenor sax to his arsenal) and Naimpalli were joined by Alex Goodman on guitar and Adam Teixeira on drum kit. With scarcely an even time signature in sight (Teixeira on kit was quite obviously having a ball), they proceeded to weave the beautiful sounds and textures whose piquancy and variance are the bedeviling attraction of fusion music. I particularly enjoyed “Tiger Eye,” by Andrew Kay, for the innovative subdivision of 11 beats and for the arrangement that included both a stint of spoken drum-syllables by Naimpalli and a kit solo by Teixeira that danced with mischievous lightness within the meter. One of my ongoing favourites in Monsoon’s repertoire was the final tune of he evening, called “Beneath the Green,” written by Justin Gray. The call-and-response structure of the melody is a dream of delicacy and tension. Notwithstanding some time disagreements in the ostenato that underpinned the kit and tabla duel, this tune capped off the evening on a compositional high note.

I quite anticipate the return of this festival for many years to come.

The Musicians
Ravi Naimpally – tabla
Jon Kay – saxes
Andrew Kay – saxes
Adam Teixeira – drums
Alex Goodman – guitar
Justin Gray – basses
We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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