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JazzTimes, Scott Albin

this group gets to stretch out both individually and collectively in spirited and spiritual fashion...

JazzTimes, Scott Albin

The self-taught guitarist Noshir Mody was born and raised in Bombay, India, where early on he was inspired by Indian classical music, Al DiMeola's Elegant Gypsy, Bollywood soundtracks, and prominent rock and jazz guitarists. Since coming to New York in 1995, Mody has led a trio as well as the EthniFusion Rock Ensemble and the EthniFusion Jazz Ensemble. After his previous two solo and trio recordings, Mody this time broadens his sonic palette with a quintet that includes soprano saxophonist Tsuyoshi Niwa, pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist John Lenis, and drummer Yutaka Uchida. Mody's five originals reflect emotions engendered by some of his personal experiences, and with tracks ranging in length from over nine minutes to over 16 minutes, this group gets to stretch out both individually and collectively in spirited and spiritual fashion.

The opening of "The Next Chapter" combines Mody's vigorous, echoing strums with Niwa's laid back soprano tones. The unison guitar-soprano melody is lyrically uplifting and generates a soaring and passionate Niwa solo, an harmonically rich two-handed venture by Staaf, and Mody's glowing, sensitive statement. Staaf's forceful chords then back Uchida's vibrant outburst, which is succeeded by a different but equally compelling look at the theme. Lenis and Uchida's stalking rhythmic framework throughout is a vital key to this selection's allure. The feeling and resonant sound of Lenis' unaccompanied intro to "Beckoned By Mercury" is remindful of masters such as Jimmy Garrison and Dave Holland, and perfectly sets the stage for the optimistically yearning theme, again winningly delivered by Mody and Niwa. Niwa's solo features his full-bodied soprano timbre, fresh ideas, and logical flow. Mody's improv reveals Indian influences and nimble constructs and runs in the manner of Pat Metheny. Staaf once more plunges deeply into the tune's harmonies, with tantalizing lines and impactful chordal sequences, graced by Mody's delicate enhancements. Lenis and Uchida maintain separate yet cohesive rhythmic streams that are again not to be overlooked. 

"India" was spurred by "the extreme nostalgia" for his homeland that Mody felt the day before he became a United States citizen. Staaf's prelude, with its drone-like left hand and spurting phraseology establishes a mood recalling Indian music. Uchida and Lenis' loping pulsations support Niwa and Mody's rendering of the floating, reverent theme and the subsequent solos. Mody's takes on a sitar effect in its ringing, crystal clear sound, but his blues-tinged formations are more jazz oriented than not. Niwa's reaches a hearty crescendo, while Lenis crafts a highly thematic and expressive improv. Staaf achieves ecstatic levels owing to her impressive technical skill and sincere emotionalism. Uchida's explosive presentation is elevated by the contrapuntal dissonant vamping of Mody and Staaf. "A Pearl Discovers the Oyster" is a piece that begins, like "The Next Chapter," with Mody's urgent strumming, which yields to a staccato swaying head from guitar and soprano over a 5/4 beat. Staaf's rhapsodic solo is followed by Mody's compelling journey that ranges from contemplative to rapturous. Lenis again stands out with his penetrating intonation and assured technique, both utilized to convey a most lucid, topical message. Staaf and Mody create another provocative aural springboard for Uchida's rumbling assertions prior to the reprise.

The closing "To Be In Your Thoughts" contains an enlightened, uplifting theme played lithely by Mody and Niwa. The soprano saxophonist's tender but fervent solo is in contrast to the leader's more refined and reflective one. Lenis' heartfelt effort is bolstered sensitively by Staaf's varied accompaniment, and the recap only reaffirms the loving nature of this track as a whole.

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