When an operatic Soprano breaks into a Rumba, with bits of Spaghetti Western and Bollywood rhythms going along for the ride, it unhinges the listener, to say the least. Bombay Rickey is a Brooklyn-based quintet gathering their love of disparate musical styles and twisting them into a unique sound. Lead singer Kamala Sankaram is a fan of Yma Sumac, an exotica singer in the 1950’s, whose high-pitched warble either enlightened listeners or sent them scurrying out of the room. Sankaram informs her own singing oft channeling Sumac’s style.
Bombay Rickey’s new album Cinefonia is a collection of operatic singing, jazz, Bollywood beats, Cumbia, film noir soundscapes, surf rock, and then some. They are quite witty and talented enough to pull it off with panache, creating twisted songs. Their music may be considered a muddled mishmash in some circles, while the musically adventurous will dig the vibes, dance along or simply grab a cocktail and swing along.
The band features Kamala Sankaram (vocals, accordion); Drew Fleming (guitar, vocals); Jeff Hudgins (alto saxophone, vocals); Gil Smuskowitz (upright bass); and Brian Adler (percussion). All are longtime NY musicians who have also worked with eclectic artists including John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Chicha Libre, Philip Glass Ensemble and Alarm Will Sound.
Sankaram is trained in Western Classical music and a student of Hindustani music. She also writes and performs her own operas and performance pieces and is also a cartoon voice-over actress.
“As a performer, I always liked singing different styles of music, and had the ability to do them justice. I can also make weird noises,” Sankaram explains in a press release. “Earlier in my career, when I was doing more new music, I had a straight tone, clean and precise, no vibrato. I was never hired for pop or opera. Then I got known for opera and wasn’t hired for other things. I needed something where I can use everything.”
Among the songs on the record, there’s a cover of the Asha Bhosle classic “Dum Maro Dum,” the hipster tune “Pondicherry Surf Goddess,” and a song channeling Cumbia called “El Final del Pachanga.” “Bombay 5-0” is a trippy take on Hawaii 5-0 while “Taki Rari” is sung in what Sankaram calls Pidgin Spanish, with undecipherable words, much like Yma Sumac’s undecipherable warble. Bombay Rickey’s world is a land where R.D. Burman and Ennio Morricone compete for the affections of Yma. Yeah it’s all a bit freaky, but it works well.
The violin has become a prime instrument of Carnatic (South Indian classical) music. It is also used by many notable jazz musicians. So, it makes perfect sense that violinist and composer Arun Ramamurthy brings the instrument full circle, back to its Western origin and melds Carnatic music with jazz on the new recording Jazz Carnatica. It’s a fluid blend where the trio expands ancient ragas into the improv world of jazz. The collaborative effort is rounded out by drummer Sameer Gupta (he is also a trained tabla player) and bassist Perry Wortman. Jazz Carnatica consists of mostly original instrumental compositions. The music is a conversation between the musicians and a marriage of two genres, where the music soars, sways, and expands into unexplored territories.
“My concept with these pieces is to stay true to the raga, to stay true to the spirit of the Carnatic compositions,” stated Ramamurthy in his press release. “We may deviate from conventional song structures, and sometimes what we play suggests chord progressions, but my melody always stays in the raga.”
Raised in a South Indian family in New Jersey, Ramamurthy played in youth orchestras and also received training from a Carnatic guru while growing up.
He trained with teachers in the States but soon realized he needed to evolve. He went to India. Living for a year with the Mysore Brothers, Nagaraj and Manjunath, legendary players and teachers in the Carnatic tradition, Ramamurthy dedicated himself to practice and performance for many hours a day. “We’d select a raga for the morning and just play exercises. Up and down the neck, working really hard, until your elbow hurt,” recalls Ramamurthy fondly. “That meant you had worked hard enough.”
Some selections lean toward jazz, such as the original composition “Conception” while others salute the traditional aspects of Carnatic music, the warmly played pieces “Dhansari” and “Darbari Kanada.” Sublime spirituality is evoked in “Govardhana” while “4th Dimension” is a spacey number. Jazz Carnatica explores interwoven rhythms creating something fresh. There’s devotional music, free jazz, timeless traditional ragas, and an evocative mix of two musical worlds.
Guest contributors include keys player Marc Cary, fiddler Trina Basu, and mridangam player Akshay Anantapadmanabhan.
“We’re playing from within. I learned that approach from my gurus in India, and it is still very upfront in my head,” Ramamurthy reflects. “You can play in front of 20,000 people or a handful, in any setting. It doesn’t matter; you center yourself and play from within—and nothing gets in your way.”
Nick Cave is a mesmeric performer, though it may take some time for the unfamiliar to absorb his musical prowess. Those with patience and a willingness to delve far into his music will be rewarded. The film 20,000 Days on Earth is a revelatory telling of Cave’s life in his own words. For Cave fans, the film is a peek inside his work and ethos of writing songs and making music. Casual observers will get a taste of what they have been missing. This is not a typical documentary where a narrator walks through the artist’s life and work, here Cave is the narrator walking the viewer through his life and work. He is a cultural icon, to be sure, but this film humanizes him and makes him more accessible to his fans.
In their debut feature directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard fuse drama and documentary while exploring Cave’s creative songwriting processes. It’s interesting to see Cave visit long-time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis and listen to their tales from the road, a shared musicality. The directors also feature Cave in a series of vignettes with characters from his past, including actor Ray Winstone, guitarist Blixa Bargeld, and Kylie Minogue, who shared a duet with Cave in the breakout hit "Where the Wild Roses Grow."
The people visit Cave in dream-like scenes as he chats with them while driving his car and they ride along as passengers. The film also contains intense live performances as well as the band working out songs in recording studios. Cave’s words morph into songs with his band infusing music into becoming a whole.
The directors have worked with Cave extensively on various projects over the past seven years. Cave says, "I've always liked their unorthodox approach to things and on a personal level we have always gotten on very well. I invited them into La Fabrique Studios to film some promotional footage for (the 2013 album) Push the Sky Away. As it turned out, in the end, they shot everything and the studio footage was so compelling we decided to expand the idea."
Cave also opens up to a psychoanalyst as he discusses how his early years continue to inform his work. It’s a treat for his longtime fans.
A writer and performer of lyrically bold songs, Nick Cave has been making music for nearly four decades. He has written songs as the lead singer of the Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. He's also a film score composer, screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor.
Special Features on the 20,000 Days on Earth release includes a Making-of featurette, nearly 1 hour of deleted and extended scenes and a 14-page booklet with interviews with the filmmakers and Cave. The DVD, Blu-ray and digital downloads will be released on November 18, 2014.
Rich Robinson (founder/guitarist/songwriter of The Black Crowes) will release a live in the studio recording, entitled Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 3 on November 18. The album was recorded in Woodstock, NY at Applehead Studios. It was taped in front of a live audience of guests who were lucky enough to get one of the 200 tickets available for the 2-night event; they were treated to acoustic and electric performance sets, and then stories about Robinson's experiences in the studio and on the road.
LISTEN: Rich Robinson's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin" from Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 3:
01) The Giving Key
02) Gone Away
03) Sunset Moon
04) I Have A Feeling
05) Laila II
06) One Cylinder
07) Bye Bye Baby
08) Action Direction
09) I Know You
10) Lost and Found
11) Oh! Sweet Nuthing
John Carpenter, the Legendary Director and Composer behind films Halloween, Escape From New York, They Live, Assault on Precinct 13 and numerous others will release his debut solo album Lost Themes on February 3, 2015.
Carpenter composed unsettling soundtrack works in the fifteen movies he has both directed and scored. “Lost Themes was all about having fun. It can be both great and bad to score over images, which is what I’m used to. Here there were no pressures. No actors asking me what they’re supposed to do. No crew waiting. No cutting room to go to. No release pending. It’s just fun. And I couldn’t have a better set-up at my house, where I depended on (collaborators) Cody (Carpenter, of the band Ludrium) and Daniel (Davies, who scored I, Frankenstein) to bring me ideas as we began improvising. The plan was to make my music more complete and fuller, because we had unlimited tracks. I wasn’t dealing with just analogue anymore. It’s a brand new world. And there was nothing in any of our heads when we started other than to make it moody,” Carpenter said via a press release.
1. Vortex 2. Obsidian 3. Fallen 4. Domain 5. Mystery 6. Abyss 7. Wraith
8. Purgatory 9. Night
Listen to the track "Vortex" Here...