Having listened to a decently wide palette of the world's musical fare, I think I can quite safely aver that India has produced some of the most marvelous and complicated modes on planet Earth. This in fact is what led to many brilliant expositions, not the least of which wended through Shakti, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Oregon, and a number of ensembles sporting daunting prowess and arresting invention. Ed Powell has immersed himself in the Northern Indian tradition, a style very much like the Southern Carnatic school, and so well that authenticity just oozes from every CD he's released, *Spiritdance* no less than the rest of the catalogue.
Of course, here in America, we're all familiar with the zarb, the ghatam, karkabou, gambribass, and esraj, aren't we? Good, because, through that intimacy, or even the lack of it, we'll be able to discern when Powell and compeers delve into some pretty funky gambols, such as Krishna Clock, a very cool marriage of trad raga and blues grooves. Powell himself is more than a little the musicologist, could probably teach most music critics on a thing or two about various facets of their trade, and perfectly understands where the wellsprings to diverse traditions are located, seamlessly dovetailing kindred approaches. In fact, in cuts like Sudan there's a certain outré perspicacity that calls back to John Stowell and other ahead-of-their-time practitioners of the non-ordinary. The song is a duet, and the interplay between Powell and Patrick Feldner is engrossing, a convocation where spaces and subtler tempo changes are as important as the learned dialoguing.
Good Roof is great example of how far the concept of blended cultures can be taken. The presence of soul, Motown soul, is almost shocking for the predominance of Eastern rhythms, but then one need only think of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to see how the gap between East and West is represented in transplanted cultures and much older antecedents. Black rhythms are well represented in the song's shifting sections just before transmuting into Indian expression, Powell's slide and fretless guitars joining the threads. Puriya and the title track, on the other hand, are musky and mysterious, snatched straight from the Asoka reign and Upanishad esoterica, the latter a lazy swooping exposition of sitar-ish rays and beams. That milieu, though, expands into a Caroline-ish (wife of the phenomenal L. Shankar) jam in the 13:43 Spiritdance, an extension even exploring measured atonality as incorporate element.This review is one of four of Powell's work; so see here, here, and here, to catch the rest.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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