This record combines Indian classical and tuturisti sounds from L. Shankar’s electric violin, his comrades’ tablas, bells, splashes, and spronks, and the silky soprano and tenor sax of ECM mainstay Jan Garbarek, creating a feeling of spaciousness that soothes but also challenges the ear. Aggressive music, to be sure, but in the most finely-tuned sense.
“Paper Nut” is reminiscent of early ’70s Weather Report with its mystical charm. The European fusion-pop band Passport comes to mind when hearing the more direct of these melodies, while Shankar’s more traditional side — as showcased in his late ’70s work with John McLaughlin — also surfaces.
With so many able drummers about, the use of drum machines is somewhat baffling, But the machines have a well-defined role as rhythmic reference rather than focus, with two powerful percussionists playing along and embellishing. As Shankar vamps on “I Know,” Trilock Gurtu spanks toms and cymbals over the top of the drum machine’s hi hit part. Shankar then molds a solo that swoops and cries with echoes overlapping, leaning into chords and fighting the instrument for ringing harmonics.
Shankar and Garbarek trade and double on some breathtaking runs on “Conversation,” one of the more agitated efforts. Tabla-ist Zakir Hussain uses the drums as a rhythmic bed but also hits the accelerator occasionally and jumps into the fray. With “Song For Everyone,” and indeed with much of the album,the emphasis rests on the melody, woven lovingly in and around this exceptionally biting and restrained free-form playing. Definitely one of the year’s top jazz LPs.