Paul Plimley & Trichy Sankaran
Ivory Ganesh Meets Doctor DrumsSGL 1523-2
“Plimley and Sankaran seem to have found a particularly rich common ground…If trading human emotions within music that pulses and moves is what constitutes jazz, then there’s no question that this qualifies.”
— James Hale, Ottawa Citizen
Closely following on Songlines’ first world music release in five years, Amir Koushkani’s Quest, and our previous jazz/world fusion release, Brad Shepik and the Commuters’ The Loan, this collaboration between two eminent Canadians who are masters of different traditions takes another approach, while still focusing on Asia as a rich musical source. Plimley is well known for his ecumenical style, involving jazz, improv, and western classical elements among others, as documented on his 1996 solo record Everything in Stages — and he brings it all to the table here. Sankaran is one of the most celebrated practitioners of Karnatak music, the rhythmically complex classical tradition of South India. The result of their meetings is this program of duos, some compositionally based and others improvised, in which the musicians explore the various ways their instruments and musical knowledge can relate. For example, Sankaran’s composition “Jhampalaya II” sets the Indian mood immediately with a tamboura drone which continues during his solo on mrdangam (double-headed drum), then lays out as Plimley’s solo pulls the piece back into jazz territory. “Sevens and Eights”, a joint composition characterized by Cecil Taylorish tone clusters and alternating segments of 7/8 and 4/4, reverts to a freeish 4/4 during the improvised section, a witty stop-start conversation that keeps both players on their toes. Paul’s “Skipping” has a syncopated, oddly bluesy feel, while his “Many Happy Returns” contains echoes of stride piano and Schubert; these are tunes that could work equally well in a more conventionally jazzy context but gain in piquancy for their Indian dialect. The other pieces are all improvised, with Sankaran acting as a highly responsive accompanist, displaying a flexible time sense which uses the building blocks of tala but doesn’t lock the dialogue within rhythmic cycles, and drawing a remarkable range of timbral and dynamic shading from his kanjiras (tambourines), only occasionally taking the lead in shaping the music’s development. Apart from “Three Sighs to the Moon”, an impromptu ballad recorded in concert and far too lovely not to include, the CD was recorded in 24 bits.
Tricky Sankaran was born in Trichy, Madras state, India in 1942 and began winning awards for his percussion playing as early as 1955, as well participating in the annual Karnatak Music Festival in Madras from 1956 on. He accompanied eminent Karnatak artists Balachandar, Emani Sankara Sastri, T.R. Mahalingham, and Semmangudi on LPs for EMI India between 1969 and 1971, as well as recording with the latter two and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman in the 1980s. From 1971 to date he has been founding director and professor of Indian Music Studies at York University, Toronto. As well as continuing to perform with Karnatak artists in North America and during annual concert tours of India, he has raised the mrdangam and kanjira to the status of solo instruments and is famous for his electrifying unaccompanied performances and broadcasts both in India and the West. His own recordings for Music of the World are Laya Vinyas (1990), Sunada (1993), and Lotus Signatures (1997). He is also well-known in world and new music circles for his compositions for Toronto’s contemporary gamelan, The Evergreen Club, and international tours with percussion-oriented ensembles such as Nexus, World Drums and Musaic, as well as one-off collaborations with Anthony Braxton/David Rosenboom, Pauline Oliveros, Charlie Haden and others. In 1998 Sankaran was granted an honorary Doctorate of Music by the University of Victoria, B.C.
Paul Plimley (piano, vibes, marimba, sampler and synths, percussion) was born in Vancouver in 1953 and has a background in classical and electronic music as well as jazz. In 1979 and 1988 he studied with Cecil Taylor, and during 1996-97 he studied rhythm with Sankaran. A founding member of Vancouver’s New Orchestra Workshop (CDs on Maya and Victo), he has long-standing collaborative associations with bassists Lisle Ellis and Barry Guy, drummers Andrew Cyrille and Gregg Bendian, and saxophonist Joe McPhee, with each of whom has has performed and recorded in duo and/or trio contexts between 1990 and 1998 (CDs on hatART, Victo, Maya, Music & Arts, 9 Winds). He appears on the new Henry Kaiser/Leo Smith project Yo Miles! (Shanachie) and a forthcoming duo with Kaiser, The Passwords (Spool), and has performed with a who’s who of jazz/improv artists, including duos or trios with Mark Dresser, Buell Neidlinger, Miya Masaoka, Han Bennink, Joey Baron, Hamid Drake, Derek Bailey, and Glenn Spearman. Plimley was one of six Canadian jazz pianists profiled on the Bravo TV series In the Key of Eh (1996), and his Songlines enhanced CD, Everything in Stages, won five major multimedia awards. In 1995 he received the Freddie Stone Award for Innovation and Integrity in Music.