Advertisement
Advertisement

Radha Thomas & Aman Mahajan: Bangalore Blues

In brief:
"What’s interesting about her sound is that she brings her training in Hindustani classical music to a contemporary jazz setting. What you hear is essentially mainstream jazz, but with a distinctively Indian flavour"

It’s surprising that Indian musicians haven’t made greater inroads into jazz. Of course, there are significant examples of Western players being influenced by Indian music and Indian instrumentalists have also featured in jazz settings, most memorably in John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu and Shakti groups.

But Indian jazz singers especially are rare – and Rhada Thomas has long been ploughing a lonely furrow. Active on the New York club scene for 20 years, Thomas is back in India now and leading her eponymous Jazz Ensemble. What’s interesting about her sound is that she brings her training in Hindustani classical music to a contemporary jazz setting. What you hear is essentially mainstream jazz, but with a distinctively Indian flavour.

Advertisement

In a recent, well-received record she explored songs associated with Chet Baker using a New York backing group. This time, Thomas has gone for a pared-down approach, collaborating with Berklee-trained and near-Bangalore neighbour Mahajan. Together they thread their way through a compact set of torchy, reflective original pieces. The Morning After sets the scene with Thomas opening with raga-ish vocalese before the song’s narrative sets a more Manhattan type scene.

Thomas’s close-to-mic style creates a low-lit, intimate atmosphere, Mahajan’s delicate comping slipping into satisfyingly sympathetic solo passages. She’s also got the dry humour of a well-honed club singer, detailing the annoyance of Bangalore’s power cuts on the lightly swinging stand-out piece Load Shedding.

On the title track Bangalore Blues, Thomas’s wispy-to-contralto pipes describe her yearning for the old country in a Gotham style that’s redolent of Blossom Dearie. Musically, she’s clearly happy in either culture.

Hear/buy Radha Thomas & Aman Mahajan: Bangalore Blues at thomas-mahajan.bandcamp.com/releases

Discography
The Morning After; Jailer; Would I Lie?; Leitmotif; Load Shedding; Only Illusion; Bangalore Blues (31.00)
Thomas (v); Mahajan (p, Fender Rhodes). Bangalore, no date.
Sub Continental Records SCRO11

Previous articleBK Trio: Hit It!
Next articleObituary: Lennie Niehaus

Latest audio reviews

Advertisement

More from this author

Advertisement

Jazz Journal articles by month

Advertisement

Various: An Easy Introduction To The Blues – Top 16 Albums

This neat-looking box set has eight CDs containing 16 LPs that were mostly recorded between the mid 50s and early 60s. Recording techniques had...
Advertisement

Still Clinging To The Wreckage 07/20, part 1

Although he had the appearance of a businessman from the city, Harris had an almost schoolboy sense of humour, and would go to any...
Advertisement

Brian Auger: bridging the gap

Born two months before the outbreak of World War II, Brian grew up in London during the Blitz. "I grew up with a pianola in...
Advertisement

The Kenny Barron Songbook and The Horace Silver Songbook

These two publications are part of a new series of 10 books (in PDF form) from Sher music, featuring the music of 10 jazz...
Advertisement

Joe Louis Walker: Viva Las Vegas Live

Joe Louis Walker came to Las Vegas, strapped on his guitar, plugged in and blasted the desert city with a set chock-full of high-energy...
Advertisement

JJ 05/59: Miles Davis – Milestones

The Miles Davis Quintet is augmented by Julian "Cannonball" Adderly on alto sax for this album and although I find it less satisfying than...