Autorickshaw Autorickshaw

Due to the emphasis on improvisation, Indian classical music and jazz have been a great match for decades. From Joe Harriott to Codona and Shakti, different ensembles have sought different types of inspiration from South Asian sources from instrumentation to harmonic qualities to compositional structure. Vocalist Suba Sankaran and tabla player Ed Hanley are two artists in Toronto's Indian classical music community who are skilled improvisers in many languages. Autorickshaw's debut is a stripped-down recording showcasing their considerable compositional and playing skills instead of studio embellishment. The small combo sound keeps the fusion from becoming too overwrought. The best tracks are the extended throw downs "Ganamurthy" and the extended dance piece "Kapi-Wallah.” The latter is the most technologically complex piece with Sankaran's multi-tracked vocals producing rich harmonies, percussive effects and sub-continental Joni Mitchell-influenced styling. Another key contributor to these pieces is bassist Rich Brown, whose electric bass is funky and melodic without a shred of over-prettiness. It's only on "Cloudscape/Monsoon” where the blend comes up short, with a nu-jazz sensibility and unmemorable hook suffering in comparison to the other pieces. Still, five out of six tracks are very good, both in terms of chops and groove. It's a fine balance to maintain — more ambitious recordings will no doubt expand on a very solid core concept. (Tala-Wallah)