Mukta Indian Sitar and World Jazz

This France-based, Indo-jazz trio take their name from the Sanskrit word for "freedom" - the ideal of which has served the aspirations of Alice Coltrane, Ananda Shankar, Shakti and other great fusion-players of the early '70s. The musical interactions on Indian Sitar and World Jazz follow similar aesthetics of cross-cultural harmony through musical dialogue, and the results are not only tight but are also amazingly devoid of the kind of sappy liberalism that tends to accompany music from these genres. Sitar lead Brigitte Menon plays lines that are at times lyrical and funky, and rich and ornamental at others, while Fellow band members Jean Chevalier (drums) and Simon Mary (bass) keep the rhythm section solid. "Frission" and "Nocturne" take on jazz structures that pre-date the '70s sitar-rock sound while "Voices" and "Bindi" (featuring the vocals of Olivier Congar) bring out a spirit that is optimistic and ethereal. The groovy swing on "NGC 224" is probably the least original of the bunch, bearing some resemblance to tracks by State of Bengal and Dave Pike, but the Sporto Kantes re-mix gives it a dance floor edge that's different from the rest. (Universal)