Marc Rossi Group | Hidden Mandala

Gravity Records (2008)
By JON GARELICK  |  November 24, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Despite the title and the presence of Indian singer Geetha Bennett and Carnactic guitarist Prasanna, Indo-jazz fusion is merely a unifying design for composer/pianist Marc Rossi's broad skills and interests. His "Blues for Frank" is as much the African (and blues) side of Coltrane as the Indian, with a strong opening piano vamp,Lance Van Lenten's fierce tenor following Bennett's vocal theme, and a free-improv cadenza by the group.

"Fatwa in Carbondale" begins with Van Lenten's bright, flute-driven theme before Rossi breaks into a propulsive Afro-Latin vamp that drives the solos. The undulating title track builds on raga themes in 7/4 with flute and Bennett's voice, but the hook is in the descending three-note pattern that runs through it like a refrain. The jazz rock of "Free Speech Zone" and its unison stop-time theme for soprano sax recall Weather Report.

On the closing "Bittersweet Five," Rossi (on electric keyboards) and guitarist Prasanna fill out the lyric line with sitar-like ornamentation. There's also the more contemplative "Hidden Mandala Outro," with its dulcimer piano figures, and the traditional tamboura drone piece "Voice of 1000 Colors Intro." But in this context at least, Berklee prof Rossi is more about dance than delicacy, purposeful song than drifting jams.

MARC ROSSI GROUP | Ryles, 212 Hampshire St, Cambridge | December 3 @ 9 pm | $10 | 617.876.9330 or www.ryles.com

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