Matthew Montfort resides on the same label as Mariah Parker (here), the Ancient-Future.com impress, but is far more exotic, further dug into the essence of what composes the sinew and soul of the musics of other cultures. Like Parker, he has a pronounced affinity for Indian musics (and I aver that Carnatic is the most difficult and masterful form of music on the planet); thus, like so many Indian ensembles, he keeps the personnel roster low on each cut in order to carve out slices from the living heart of the form.
The lead cut, Gauri the Golden, is a long song with Patti Weiss on violin for interludes and Alan Tower taking the didjeridu to bridge between Australian and Indian drone accompaniment. Montfort chose the unusual scalloped fretboard guitar in order to best execute a South Indian vina method of note bending, obtaining a perfect cross between sitar and guitar. Like much of Alice Coltrane's work, another musician deeply informed by Indian schools, the song is an unceasing build-up without release, something Western musics rarely even contemplate, forcing the listener to experience art in a different way.
Any perplexity at that unorthodox environment is resolved in his take on Parker's (Mariah, not Charlie) Sangria, which she wrote for this CD then transported over to her own for a completely different read. Parker plays the santur, with Weiss appearing again on violin and Montfort on guitar for a very expressive recital, Montfort waxing a bit Gabor Szabo-ish after the McLaughlin-esque refrains of the previous cut. That song's followed by a completely solo piece that carried me back to when John Stowell and others were initiating this sort of work but also to the CDs and cassettes one finds in Indian markets, where players are encouraged to trot out their chops in culturally classical airs. Here, not a second or a note is wasted.
If you saw the Monterey Pop Fest film with Ravi Shankar, who blew all the most talented rockers off the stage with his mind-bending chops and then completely entranced The Master (Jimi Hendrix), you know why Montfort was inspired by a photo of Jimi sitting gape-mouthed in the presence of such galactic artistry. The pure astonishment on Hendrix's face prompted him to compose the Purple Raga as tribute to rock's greatest guitar player and to the singularity of the music that stunned him. None of this, I hasten to add, is rock and roll, nor should it be, because it's important that more of the American culture hear what Indian musicians have been producing for hundreds of years, a sound and discipline that can enrich us as much as it has them.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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