CD Review: My Nada Brahma’s “Mission to Mt. Everest”…when it’s done right, there’s nothing better

My Nada BrahmaArtist: My Nada Brahma
Title: Mission to Mt. Everest
Label: Epoch Music
Genre: nu Indian jazz

CD Review by Dawoud Kringle

I love fusion, but only when it’s done right. Some fusion projects seem like hybrids that have inharmonious elements glued on to each other in some pitiful attempt to be “exotic.” But when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.

My Nada Brahma knows what they’re doing.

Taking their name from a sacred Hindu concept (meaning that the whole universe was created from the energy of the primordial sound that existed in the beginning), My Nada Brahma is Ravi Padmanabha (tabla & percussion), David Adamczyk (violin), Ron LoCurto (guitar), and Michael  McNeil (harmonium).

Metallic percussion, light guitar chords, and a harmonious dialogue between the violin and harmonium set the tone for the title track, “My Nada Brahma.”. Soon, the band moves into a head / gat played (light much Indian music) at blinding speed. The music smooths itself out to a more contemplative mood, then bursts into some nearly insane teehi, constantly teasing the listener with unexpected shifts in tempo and mood that sound, nonetheless, perfectly natural.

“Dha Te” starts with the guitar playing moody longings on slide, against percussion backdrop, with the harmonium mysteriously shadowing the melodies. Eventually, the violin comes in and plays in unison with the guitar like a jealous lover stalking his / her beloved. Then they break into an angular dance rounding itself out to its original game of cat and mouse. This drama plays itself out to a free jazz discord, and fights to regain the footing it stood on at the beginning. The original melodies are found, abandoned, and then rediscovered as the lovers find new games to play.

“Prakriti” (the only composition composed as a group, all others composed by Padmanabha) starts with Padmanabha playing metallophonic chimes against airy guitar and harmonium chords. The violin floats above them with idyllic singing toward the heavens. The piece diverts from their half poetic, half daredevil display of chops and takes the listener through an opium dream romp through a celestial brothel.

The entire CD contains one delightful surprise after another.

To say that these guys have impressive chops is an understatement. Everyone traverses the most difficult musical challenges effortlessly. Padmanabha handles the notoriously difficult tablas and percussions with skill and sensitivity. There were even a few brief moments where I thought I heard a bass, and it was Padmanabha’s tabla. Adamczyk’s violin is both fiery and poetic. LoCurto’s guitar provides some very sublime textures to the music. And McNeil brings an unexpected musicality from the harmonium; an instrument not normally associated with virtuosity. Each musician brings a different element to the music, but they all work perfectly well together. The whole CD has taken the old model of indo-jazz fusion (e.g. Shakti, etc.) into the 21st century and made it their own.

Keep your eyes and ears on Nada Brahma. These guys tapped into the Nada Brahma.