The motivation behind the music on The Jazz Raj is not new for me. It has been a continuous process going back a decade or more. Just like Yehudi Menuhin was, I have always been deeply engaged in the two classical musics of the world, Indian and European. The two complement each other brilliantly.
One area where Indian Music is ahead is tonalities, scales or call them Rags or Ragas. Basically the tonal material you have accessible for you composition or improvisation.
In the west we are pretty much stuck with the diatonic scale of whole step whole step half step whole step whole step half step aka the Major Scale. Sure we start it on different intervals and call it different names, Phrygian Lydian e.t.c but it is still the same structure. Not in Indian Music. The tonalities of Indian music have all possible and seemingly impossible structures, but please do not think they are constructions, they are very natural sounding. My interest for a very long time has been to apply these tonalities to my western musical sensibilities in order to expand my vocabulary.
On a piece of music called Mirror on my record Icon I used a South Indian Raga called Kanakangi as the tonal material, the scale notes are C, C#, D, F, F#, G, A.
One of the tonalities on the Jazz Raj is derived from the South Indian Rag Hatakambari. If played in C (on the Jazz Raj it appears in Ab) it would look like this: C, Db, E, F, G, A#, B. If you spend time with these kind of tonalities, form chords and harmonic relations within them. Explore the melodic possibilities both in Indian and western styles new musical dimensions evolve. You also start reflecting on unorthodox use of tonal material in western classical music in a new way, like Beethoven’s chromatic lines for instance suddenly appear in a new light.
There are several different derived tonalities on the Jazz Raj. They are there because of the pleasurable sound they create. I will in some form present an explanation in the near future for those who have interest.
The rhythmical influence from India to the west is more widely known. Few people involved in music have been able to avoid percussionists and drummers singing takadimi with varying degrees of success.
There is plenty of Indian rhythmical foundations on this record but we have integrated in a western approach. Of course mostly thanks to Ranjit Barot’s fabulous drumming. Ranjit is unique in that he is a western kit drummer with the entire Jazz and Rock vocabulary who at the same time is deeply rooted in the Indian rhythmic tradition. So again it is a synthesis of east and west that is no longer crude or apparent. It is a fusing of elements that enhances both musical worlds.
There are two guitar players who have accompanied me on this east west journey through the years, the late great Shawn Lane and more recently (including on the Jazz Raj) Mattias IA Eklundh. I have always looked at the combination of Bass (guitar) and Guitar as one extended instrument, sort of like a Grand Piano, and Mattias (like Shawn before him) has been instrumental in implementing and developing these approaches in musical development through integration.
Musical Theory is like studying a map.
The journey however is taken in the real world.
The Jazz Raj was indeed real for the 3 of us and I do hope that it will take you on a journey as well.