Big Hairy Monster!
(All Album Reviews by Big Hairy Monster!)
This is an interesting recording.
Ravi Shankar is well known for his ability on the sitar. His style ranges from traditional Indian and classical music to rock and world beat. Throughout his career he has managed to be creative and thought provoking, consistently putting out interesting music...if you have the ability (or desire) to digest the ethnicity of it.
On the other hand, Philip Glass is a post-modern minimalist composer that provided a foundation for ambient, new age, and world music. Unfortunately, some people simply just have no interest in music of this nature either...after all, the phrase "new age" is bound to get stares and eyes rolling at the thought of Yanni or John Tesh. Philip Glass may be partly responsible for inspiring the genre, but there is more to the story.
It would seem as though these two artists would be worlds apart, but in reality they began working together in the mid-60s with Glass transcribing various non-western music styles. This was to have a lasting effect on Glass as a composer.
Flash forward to 1990, when Glass and Shankar collaborate on this excellent album, Passages. This is a six-song collection: three songs were written by Shankar and arranged by Glass, the others are written by Glass and arranged by Shankar. Shankar's pieces are primarily Indian ragas, which Glass arranges using western instruments and musicians. The pieces by Glass are minimal and ambient, yet very structured and even jazzy. Shankar takes these and applies non-western instrumentation and players.
While I am on the subject of the musicians, there are some great players here:
Peter Gordon (played with Bob James, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorious, and Chick Corea among others) on horn.
Lenny Pickett (SnL Band, Tower Of Power, Little Feat, Talking Heads) on Sax.
Tim Baker (Suzanne Vega, Cirith Ungol, Ray Charles) on violin.
Seymour Bareb (Charles Mingus, Paul Desmond)on Cello.
This is a who's who of great session players.
The overall mood of the album varies from mysterious and haunting to dense and jazzy...jazzy in a way that is quite different than most jazz. Think these great players getting together and jamming an almost prog/world/contemporary classical way.
"Offering", the first track, starts with almost a Gong vibe...when Gong is in one of their subdued moments. This moves into an Univers Zero vibe in the same vein as maybe something from Heatwave...but not nearly as dark or aggressive. I would have loved to hear what some of these compositions would have sounded like with a rock drummer and electric guitars!
"Sanhanipa" is much more Eastern flavored. For anyone who dismisses Eastern music as not being complicated, check this tune out!
I'll leave the other songs for the listener to discover.
Part classical, part soundtrack music. Part jazz, part Indian raga. Sitars, saxaphones, tabla, violins, kalimba...all performed with passion and precision. This is one CD I will never part with!
To many PE readers, works such as this may be old hat or a beloved classic. To the reader who may be new to this style of music, I whole-heartedly recommended Passages as an excellent jumping in point. Complex, beautiful, at times dissonant, at times flat jamming, this is a wonderful album.