STEVE LACY — Explorations (with Subroto Roy Chowdhury) (review)

STEVE LACY — Explorations (with Subroto Roy Chowdhury) album cover Album · 1987 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
snobb
"Explorations" is an obscure album, credited to Indian sitar player Subroto Roy Chowdhury and soprano sax player Steve Lacy, but actually its Chowdury's trio playing with Lacy as a guest artist.

Subroto Roy Chowdhury made his name in India and Europe during the 70s as a traditional raga player, even if his main scenes in Europe were mostly jazz festivals. Here on this unorthodox recording he shares the leader role with jazz avant-garde rooted sax player Steve Lacy, and surprisingly it works perfectly.

This album was recorded in Tonstudio Bauer (main German studio servicing ECM artists for decades). On "Explorations" three tracks, only Tabla player Shibsankar Ray and Patricia Martin (on Tambura) play on all three. Basically all three of these tracks are ragas, or based very much on ragas, but what differs from track to track is who leads, Lacy on sax or Chowdhury on sitar. On opener "Saxoraga", Lacy takes the lead as the rhythm section builds and provides a rhythmic basis for Lacy's soulful and thoughtful improvisation. Many a 70s musicians dabbling in Indian music from outside the tradition could be accused of 'esoteric noodling', but "Explorations" is absolutely free of that. Lacy is a well-known student of Indian composition and did not enter into this recording session lightly.

On the second composition "Spontaneity", Subroto Roy Chowdhury plays his usual raga music as a trio leader (Lacy does not participate). After the expected quiet opening, this one eventually builds to an intense torrent of rhythms. Some may find this somewhat similar to ragas they have heard by Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar Khan.

All of side B is filled with a twenty-two minute long composition on which all four musicians play. Subroto Roy Chowdhury and his trio lead, while Lacy's sax adds excellent small ornaments to their music, which as a result sounds more cosmopolitan and modern.

This album has been released on vinyl and CD in 1987 by the tiny German Jazzpoint label, and never re-released after that. "Explorations" is recommended for Lacy fans, as well as for those with interest in Indian ragas. This album can become an excellent discovery, opening a new, unusual side of Lacy and Subroto Roy Chowdhury both.
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