Autorickshaw Four Higher

Canada's premier drum and bass ensemble — as in sub continental drums and electric bass — returns to up the ante on their second album, Four Higher. "Saraswati” kicks things off with a slow, lyrical bass line and a slow funk kit pattern in unison with the tabla. It quickly doubles tempo to become an effective piece of home-grown break beat science, as Suba Sankaran soars overtop with her wonderfully expressive voice. "Ganamurthy” is a reprise from their first album, although with Debahsis Sinha's drum kit playing, this version has a lot to offer a dance floor. Another successful funk tune is "Chennai Five-O,” which is bassist Rich Brown's best moment on the disc. The vocal and tabla duets remain compelling. The jazz content is less successful. The piano playing on "Unjalur” is strictly locked into the drum and vocal lines, and the easy-on-the-ears chord changes contrast poorly with the more adventurous use of harmony elsewhere on the album. Furthermore, their versions of "A Night in Tunisia” and "Caravan” do not add significantly to many versions of these "exotic” standards. Perhaps a better choice of covers would toughen up the jazz end of the spectrum. Autorickshaw’s sound is still developing but they’ve hit some new peaks on this disc. (Tala-Wallah)