The album FAR EAST – The Indo-Jazz Big Band Suite is not the first fusion of Indian and jazz music, but definitely one of the most beautiful ones. This suite in three movements written by the multi-instrumentalist Georg Gratzer invites its listeners on a journey, playfully moving from soaring solos to the deep drive of the ensemble and back again.
The basic principles of Indian music - which are still valid to this very day - came into existence when mammoths still walked the earth and the Egyptian pharaoh Tutanchamun still had to wait another 600 years for his birth. Whilst the music in the West evolved via detours into a rhythm- and harmony based music for our occidental ears, the masters of music of the subcontinent brought their totally different understanding of music to perfection.
Nevertheless, during the 50s and 60s, these two poles encountered each other when the Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar inspired Western musicians, such as John Coltrane or Bud Shank, to integrate Indian melodics and rhythm into jazz and let it evolve. Thus the modal music tradition of India, developed over millennia, became an accoucheur for a totally new music genre namely Free Jazz.
When, in 1966, the Jamaican jazz saxophonist Joe Harriot and the Indian sitar player John Mayer released the album “Indo-Jazz-Suite“, the term “Indo-Jazz“ was born. Only a few years later, the visionary group Shakti, consisting of the English guitarist John McLaughlin with the Indian violinist L. Shankar, the tabla player Zakir Hussain and the ghatam player Vikku Vinayakram, lead this genre to great international success and acclaim.
At the end of the 90s, inspired by Shakti and by an encounter with the Indian tabla virtuoso Raul Sengupta, the Austrian multi-instrumentalist Georg Gratzer began to immerse himself further and further in Indian music. A respectful love which has persisted for almost 30 years and has now found its (temporary) peak with this declaration of love in the form of an album.
FAR EAST – The Indo-Jazz Big Band Suite tells the story of Gratzer’s educational journey through the north of India, his study and taming of the Indian bamboo flute Bansuri, the extensive concert tours across India and the legendary Gundecha Brothers - two famous Dhrupad singers - who became much more than just musical mentors for Gratzer.
The compositions, which were newly arranged for this album, are the result of a decades-long journey in search of the commonalities between Indian music and western jazz music. A combination doesn’t give rise to a copy, but creates new life. This is not only a widely accepted fact in Biology, but definitely applies to music as well. How does this new life sound? Have a listen on FAR EAST - The Indo-Jazz Big Band Suite.