JAZZ REVIEWS : SUBRAMANIAM & CO. AT ROYCE HALL
Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, the violinist and composer from Madras who has made California his home since 1973, presented a concert of what he still likes to call “neo-fusion jazz” Saturday at Royce Hall, UCLA.
The event attracted a near-capacity crowd, enlivened by the profusion of colorful saris. The program, involving a dozen performers, was his most ambitious yet, and was by all odds the most conspicuously international, offering a mile-wide range of ragas, rhythms and cross-pollinated sounds by musicians from India, Japan, France, Iran and the United States.
Though one horn was heard from occasionally (a lyricon played by Steve Tavaglione), the accent throughout was on string and percussion instruments. Most valuable was the presence of guitarist Larry Coryell, a frequent associate of Subramaniam, who adapted his style and sound brilliantly to the requirements of the occasion. Engaging in frequent back-and-forth improvised exchanges, the two men achieved a gratifying mutual stimulation, both hard driving and impassioned.
No less intensely galvanic were the contests between two of the percussionists, Trichur R. Mohan playing the classical south Indian mridangam drum and Valayapatti Subramanium (no relation), who beat the thavul with the fingers of his left hand and with a drumstick held in his right. Their long contest on “Fantasy,” one of several new works introduced, was a riot of rhythmic ingenuity and percussive tonal variety.
During the second half, Kazu Matsui, playing a shakuhachi flute, and June Kuramoto, a koto player from the group Hiroshima, established a contrasting mood with a typically suspenseful elaboration on what sounded like an unresolved dominant chord, though there was much more to it than that.
The two other guests were expendable. Benard Ighner accompanied himself at the piano in a single tune, “Everything Must Change.” Joe Sample, a fine pianist with lengthy credits, has mysteriously deteriorated into a plodding, pseudo-impressionistic bore. His heavy-handed solo added nothing to the concert, though he redeemed himself partially in the second half, joining forces with Subramaniam for the last two compositions.
The most remarkable item in this wildly eclectic show was the finale of the first half, the showcase for Manoucher Sadeghi on the santour, an Iranian dulcimer played with two small mallets. The tune, “Indian Express,” somehow typified the adventurous and unpredictable spirit of this stimulating evening.