Anniversaries can creep up on you. Whilst recording this album Baluji Shrivastav, Linda Shanovitch & Chris Conway realised that they had been playing music together for 20 years.
As Jazz Orient they recorded an album Dangerous Ground at Baluji & Linda's home on a 4 track tape recorder – (it has recently been remastered as a free download) . Other albums came, then they joined the ARC label as Re-Orient recording 2 albums – Indian World Music Fusion in 1997 (EUCD1413) and Seven Steps To The Sun in 1998 (EUCD1490).
Then concerts and solo projects took up their time. The last time they recorded was 2006's “Baluji Shrivastav & Re-Orient” (EUCD1982) The album featured some of Baluji's extended compositions with guests Hossam Ramzy, Andy Sheppard and Guy Barker, so Re-Orient only played together on 4 tracks.
5 years go by... and Re-Orient reunite in the studio again. Some things are new – they are more reflective perhaps, they have embraced electronics and technology a little, but their gift for melody and arrangements and their unique sound are still as strong as ever.
Jai Uttal, Ila Arun, Flora Purim, Oregon, Indian and Balkan
folk musics, Okay Temiz.
digitally at Northolme Studios, London and Aloft Studios, Leicester, UK
Dangerous Ground was the first song Re-Orient ever played together 20 years ago - here given a bossa treatment.
The Long Summer is a musical reply to Chris's piece The Long Winter he recorded on Practical Candle Magic with The Rain Garden and Sky High with Happy Landings.
Portrait Of A Swan is a part of a longer piece by Baluji Shrivastav called Portraits Of The Dark. Celestial is part of a longer piece Song Celestial.
Writing credits 3, 9 - by Baluji Shrivastav 2, 5, 7 - by Linda Shanovitch
1, 4, 8 - by Chris Conway
6, 10 - by Conway, Shrivastav, Shanovitch
Indo-jazz fusions have ahistory reaching back to the 60's with Joe Harriott and John Mayer (not that one) on the album of that name ; in retrospect it was brave, inventive, and groundbreaking but the fusion itself was crude.
Re-Orient - celebrating 20 years together with this release - have certainly refined the concept. Take a listen to "Portrait Of A Swan" and you'll hear very tradition-sounding Indian sitar and tabla music from Baluji, leading quite logically into Asian-inflected jazz singing, on to a fine modern sax break from guest Eric Junkes and some musical sparringh between sax and sitar before Linda Shanovitch returns with the vocals and proceedings close with a dissonant ending.
Most of the tracks achieve this kind of stunningly succesful fusion, though "Brave Boy" is a vocal jazz ballad with the only Indian flavour courtesy of Baluji's dilruba (a long-necked fiddle), the excuberant "Celebration" draws on Linda's experiences with Latin music., and Chris Conway's evocative "The Long Summer" brought Pentangle to mind; most of the remainder is far more reflective though.
Long-time world music specialists ARC Music have sent me through an album called “Undiscovered Time” (Indian world music fusion) by the band Re-Orient (EUCD 2371). The trio consists of multi-instrumentalist Baluji Shrivastav and singer-songwriter/poet Linda Shanovitch alongside another multi-instrumentalist (and uber-prolific album releaser - 80 albums to date), Chris Conway.
The album is a fusion of world musics with influences from both Indian classic and Indian folk, the Balkans, Bossa, the Celtic world, and assorted jazz balladry and other flavours. So often these sorts of fusions can become messy and fall between the cracks, but this is a very interesting, very listenable album.
Each member has contributed their own compositions to the 10 tracks on the CD (three by Chris, three by Linda, two by Baluji and a couple of joint works) and as you’d expect they tend to each emphasise different facets of the fusions.
Baluji draws more from the raags and the classical Indian music tradition, Linda’s from jazz and ballads and poetry with a sparser and more reflective nature, whilst Chris tends to have a more overall balanced fusion of flavours spent from years of experimenting with ingredients and fiddling with menus in the world music kitchens.
With instruments including sitar, dilruba, surbhabar, tabla, naal, gopichand, darbuka, piano, keys, tin whistle, low Irish whistles, and 9-string electric and acoustic guitars, theremin, swarmandal, nattuvangam, bodhran and a variety of vocal styles there’s a lot to listen out for here. There are also sporadic appearances by special guests Eric Junkes on saxes and Andy Platt on bass.
It’s difficult to accurately describe the music, so I’ll just try and give you a flavour of what I’m hearing. These are just my impressions.
Global Reunion feels like the soundtrack to a film and is an uplifting theme to introduce the disparate members of the band as they re-unite for this new album. Brave Boy is more of a straightforward midnight jazz ballad, real torch-song stuff for the end of the night when the audience have all gone… Very sad lyrics, deepened further by Junkes’s weeping sax and Baluji’s mournful dilruba.
Portrait of a Swan is a fairly straight meeting of jazz and Indian tarana in Raag Hansadhwani mode featuring the sax and sitar. The Gift of Time is a form of Indo-Irish ballad and Dangerous Ground a slow bossa with flamenco undertones featuring a solo on the strange sounding gopichand (a one string plucked instrument).
Celebration cracks along in a joyous vein with elements of Brazilian nordestino pifano music set against Indian bols, kalimba, crows, monkeys and a global background of sounds. Tides is another meditative piece featuring Linda’s words and vocals and the rather otherworldly sounds of the theremin, gentle ostinatos and the sound of the waves.
The Long Summer is a piece inspired by Balkan music in ⅝ time yet is more akin to Brazilian jazz in the vocals.
Celestial, which draws inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita, is as spacy and ethereal as the name implies, whilst Garland of Light is a floaty collective improvisation utilising their three very different vocal sounds.
Interestingly, the whole album hangs together surprisingly well, given the amount of influences, the plethora of instruments, the different backgrounds of the members and the highly collaborative nature of the work. It’s not an easy thing to pull off. We’re often used to the concept of a dominant musician or producer having an idea and dragging everyone else along in the direction they want (sometimes necessary to bring a vision to life), but that this album works as well as it does I can only attribute to Re-Orient’s ability to really listen to each other, support and co-create. After 20 years I suppose they’ve got the right fusion after all.