CD review: Tirtha – celebrating the freedoms of jazz forms and Carnatic melodies and rhythm!

Artist: Tirtha (Vijay Iyer, Prasanna and Nitin Mitta)
Title: Tirtha
Label: ACT Music + Vision
Cat.#: ACT 2011
Genre: Nu Indian Jazz (?)

Reviewed by Matthew Rentz

Tirtha is a Sanskrit word that represents a crossable shallow river or stream and a place of pilgrimage. That is exactly what the US based ensemble of the same name provides the listener on their self-titled debut album, a journey where the traveller emerges having experienced a spiritual transformation.

Composed of members Vijay Iyer, (piano), Prasanna (guitar/ voice), and Nitin Mitta (tabla), Tirtha’s eclectic array of influences are wonderfully apparent. Upon first listening to the opening track “Duality” the ensemble’s South Asian and jazz roots are obvious, but it doesn’t take long to realize this is not the typical jazz fusion record. The virtuosic playing complements the compositions of Iyer and Prasanna with a breadth of emotion that paints a journey through a masterful weaving of styles that never feels contrived.

Each artist has an immense palette where they transform from one style to the other with ease. Mitta’s tabla playing is masterful with traditional Indian rhythms leading into head bobbing grooves, with his intricate touch complimenting the slower parts of the album well. Iyer’s precise rhythmic piano work creates an overall feel that ranges from sinister to tranquil and beautiful while Prasanna’s intricate guitar lines weave and wander delightfully guiding the journey through the album. On their first effort Tirtha has created a monumental album that should be heard by all experimental music lovers.

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Read more about this band in DooBeeDoo