Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Individually, Indian-American pianist/composer Vijay Iyer, Chennai-born guitarist/composer Prasanna and tabla player Nitin Mitta, a Hyderabad native, are accomplished artists who shift easily among multiple musical languages. Together, as the trio Tirtha (a sanskrit word that in a spiritual context denotes a holy place near a body of water), they have produced a deeply thoughtful and innovative collaboration. Combining the elemental directness of rock, the chamber-like intimacy of raga and bebop's angular drive, Tirtha achieves a profound interplay of melody and rhythm on this collection of nine original compositions. You hear familiar structural elements of jazz, Hindustani and Carnatic music but get none of the cliches associated with previous "fusions" of jazz and Indian-bred genres." -Downbeat
CMJ - "The cohesiveness of this band is remarkable throughout TIRTHA. Prasanna's guitar playing seems to exceed the capacity of the instrument, employing gamakas and sliding rapidly about the fret board as if he were playing a sitar."
Down Beat (p.58) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[With] a dense fabric and an irresistible momentum. But there is also time for introspection, which is brought forth with a rare clarity."
JazzTimes (p.65) - "Iyer and Prasanna alternate songwriting duties, and both reveal an incredible skill for using Western instruments to communicate decidedly Eastern music."
Billboard (p.36) - "In the early going, the trio meets force with more force, Iyer's 'Duality' and Prasanna's 'Tribal Wisdom' serving as vehicles for the instrumentalists to demonstrate their flair for the intense."
Personnel: Prasanna (vocals, guitar); Vijay Iyer (piano).
Audio Mixers: Scotty Hard; Vijay Iyer.
Liner Note Author: Vijay Iyer.
Recording information: Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY (08/11/2008-08/12/2008).
Photographers: Alan Nahigian; Dave Morgan; Lynne Harty.
Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer cut five albums in 2010 in various ensemble and solo settings. He was also was nominated for a Grammy for 2009's stellar Historicity. To kick off 2011, Iyer releases the much-anticipated Tirtha project; the debut recording of a new band that came together for the first time in 2007. Tirtha features Iyer on piano, virtuoso Nitin Mitta on tablas, and guitarist-composer Prasanna. Together they engage in a triangular dialogue between modern creative jazz, Hindustani (north-Indian classical) and Carnatic (south-Indian classical) music. What Tirtha's music is not, is mere jazz exotica or "fusion." What takes place along composed and improvised lines is a deep communication from the various places where these musics meet and diverge. The players engage one another through familiar and new harmonic ideas in spirited counterpoint, seamless dissonance, and complex lyric invention, all incorporated in a polyrhythmic language. Iyer and Mitta introduce "Duality" with a mysterious melodic statement before the pianist delves into a dense exploration of chordal harmonics that Prasanna answers minimally at first, then in an ever more detailed, complex fashion. Mitta's tablas are the constant: he bridges the dialogue on the changes in various tones and tempi, turning the entire work into an exercise in modal telepathy. "Tribal Wisdom," the album's longest piece, opens with a voice, tabla, and handclaps introducing what will most certainly become one of the most exciting explorations in polyrhythm, counterpoint, and elegance on the disc. "Abundance" is a more languid affair, with gorgeous changes and Iyer's piano holding court in a complex, midtempo ballad enhanced by Prasanna's silky comping. "Polytheism" employs rhythm as an anchor in a contrapuntal apreggiatic study that never loses its groove; the dialogue between piano and guitar is fluid and expansive. The set closes with the hauntingly beautiful "Entropy and Time," a gorgeous, quietly moving piece that displays Mitta's amazing gift of enhancing an already luxuriant lyricism with his complete mastery of the tonal possibilities of his instrument. Prasanna uses his guitar more like a sitar in creating an assertive melodic statement as Iyer responds to him ethereally in the middle register. Tirtha is a triumph; it is a high-water mark in hearing the constantly evolving discussion between jazz and Indian music. ~ Thom Jurek
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