Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Carnatic Alto Sax from Radhakrishnan

South Indian Carnatic classical music is one of the oldest living traditions available to the world's music lovers today. I believe only Japanese Gagaku goes back further. In the world of Carnatic practice, "living" is the key. It does not stand still, as witnessed by such things as the cross-fertilization realized in combined Carnatic-Hindustani compositions and improvisations, various interactions with other musics, and the incorporation of non-traditional instruments into performance practice.

For example, there's the alto saxophone, as played by Prasant Radhakrishnan. A recital spotlighting his prowess can be had on East Facing (Lotus Music), featuring Radhakrishnan and a full Carnatic ensemble. Now I am not by any means an expert on the highly complicated, incredibly rich Indian classical world, other than a little study of it and a lifetime of rewarding listening. But I must say I am impressed with his facility and inventive ornamentation. He gets a tone like no western jazz saxophonist I've heard. It's no doubt in part a product of phrasing in the Carnatic idiom; it also comes out of Radhakrishnan's formidable musical artistry and a very personal use of breath control, which is most evident on this recording. The supporting musicians are all quite good and Prasant wisely provides a program of short compositions and ragams for this initial outing.

Anyone interested in South Indian classical and/or alto sax virtuosity is encouraged to listen to this one. You can get it directly from

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