Purbayan Chatterjee: Unbounded (Abaad)

Indian classical music meets contemporary jazz in sitarist's recording with Gary Husband, Bela Fleck and Anat Cohen


Sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee’s latest album, Unbounded (Abaad), blends Indian classical music with contemporary jazz in an original and captivating recording.

The first track, Shanmukhapriya (The Mystic), opens with a surging, free-form soundscape, rich with cymbal crashes and intertwined melodies before dropping away to reveal a 4/4 beat on the hi-hat that introduces the main song. In a slow, complex piece, numerous sections, often in different time signatures, interlock; the vocal is sung by Shankar Mahadevan and there’s superb drumming from Antonio Sanchez.

On the second track, Sukoon (Catharsis), Chatterjee’s sitar introduces a warm, delicate track sung by vocalists Thana Alexa and Gayatri Asokan, backed by piano and sparse bass and drums. Halfway through, Zakir Hussain’s tabla and Chatterjee’s sitar lead an intricate instrumental section, and Hussain continues to accompany the vocalists throughout. Hussain and Mahadevan were two parts of the trio that released Is That So? last year, alongside John McLaughlin.

Alongside many musicians famous for their performances of Indian classical music, several guest musicians on the album are of serious jazz pedigree as well. Snarky Puppy’s Michael League plays bass throughout and drummer and pianist Gary Husband features on several tracks including Intezaar (The Wait) – where spacious clarinet from Anat Cohen introduces Pratibha Singh Baghel’s gentle vocals – and the title track, in which a distant synth echoes beneath reverberating sitar and a repeated vocal line.

Chatterjee himself performs throughout the album, with particular highlights being his improvisation and accompaniment on the almost 10-minute long Lalitha (The Joyful Mother). Released on Sufiscore, Unbounded (Abaad) is a complex and multifaceted recording, blending genres with incredibly skilled musicianship, and its captivating originality certainly makes it a memorable album.

Shanmukhapriya (The Mystic); Sukoon (Catharsis); Khula Asmaan (Firmament); Intezaar (The Wait); Lalitha (The Joyful Mother); Abaad (Unbounded); Nayi Shuruaat (New Beginnings) (40.05)
Chatterjee (sit); Zakir Hussain (tab); U. Rajesh (md); Antonio Sanchez, V. Selvaganesh (d); Shankar Mahadevan, Thana Alexa, Pratibha Singh Baghel, Gayatri Asokan (v); Deepak Pandit (vn); Bela Fleck (bj); Gary Husband (p, d); Jordan Rudess (kyb); Michael League (b); Anat Cohen (cl); and others. No location, no date.