Rating: 8/ 10
Besides his phenomenal contribution to Carnatic violin-playing, Dr. L. Subramaniam is known for a series of path-breaking collaborations with international artistes. Conversations, his 1984 album with Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, is a masterpiece in the global fusion space.
The maestro has now released the first of his two-volume series Beyond Borders, which contains such remarkable interactions. While most tunes have been played earlier on the live circuit, they find an appearance on a well-compiled album here.
The six-piece set begins with the radio edit of the title track, featuring the great jazz keyboardist George Duke, who passed away in 2013. While the rhythm section is manned by drummer Billy Cobham and bassist Stanley Clarke, the highlights are Duke’s intricate playing for many parts of the composition and beautiful violin passages towards the end.
Subramaniam’s daughter Bindu does the vocal section in the middle.
Legendary violinist Jean-Luc Ponty appears on Necklace Road, which impresses with its charming string duet and hummable hook. Then, Bindu sings the emotion-filled When It’s Dark, which talks of hope, strength, and faith.
The violin-voice interaction is marvelous, and the composition has a simplicity that makes it endearing.
End Of The Tunnel, featuring ace keyboardist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Ernie Watts, has a vibrant tune and brisk solos.
Lullaby has vocals by Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam. The soothing melody and sweet vocal texture are complemented by Corky Siegel’s harmonica bends.
Another genius, the late guitarist Larry Coryell, appears on the final track Times Must Change, which begins with Carnatic ‘konnakol’ (spoken rhythm syllables) by T.H. Subhash Chandran and has an energetic stretch by saxophonist Premik Russell Tubbs. The climax has a symphonic arrangement that lingers in one’s mind.
The instrumentation is tight throughout, and the mixing and mastering are of the highest order. Besides the effortless blend of Carnatic melodies with jazz, what’s noteworthy is the variety. As the title suggests, this is something that transcends borders.