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Monday, August 30, 2010

Oregon... BUT where is Ralph Towner?

Vasant Rai & Oregon - Spring Flowers-Autumn Song

Vasant Rai is one of the world’s most acclaimed masters of Indian music.He emerged a virtuoso on the sarod.(The sarod is a 25-string fretless lute.) In 1973, Rai became a visiting professor of music at Columbia University in New York City. He subsequently founded the Alam School of Indian Classical Music in New York, where he now teaches sarod, sitar, flute, violin, guitar, and voice. He lives in the Chelsea district of New York City, and carries on the pure classical tradition of his homeland, expressing the same universal musical spirit as his guru. But meanwhile, Vasant is exploring new directions.
“I am a musician,” he says. “I’m following the traditional ways, but I’m not orthodox to the point where I won’t do other things.” He has, in fact, appeared with electric guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughin (in 1974), and is perhaps best known for his remarkable series of “East-West blends” on the Vanguard label-compositions and improvisations recorded with members of the group Oregon. Vasant is currently recording and experimenting with his “fretless guitar,” a self-modified sarod-guitar hybrid.- from Vasant's website

You have recorded several "East-West blends" recently. As a classical artist, what motivated you to go in this direction?
I would like to offer the best of Indian classical music to as many people as possible. But only about 10 percent of the population would go to listen to Indian music, or any Oriental classical music. That doesn't mean that they don't like it. It's just new for them. I have tried to create something with Western musicians. I have mixed Indian and Western music so audiences hear something Indian when they are listening. When the general listener hears Autumn Song or Spring Flowers (Vanguard LPs), he would hardly know this is something from India.
Did you compose those pieces and then find Western musicians to suit your needs?
Yes. I composed and then thought, "What instrument would work with this composition?" I thought of violin, cello, or any other continuous sound instrument. Because I play sarod, which is plucked, I wanted a bowed or wind instrument-and drums, of course. I thought if I used tabla the audience would decide, "Oh, this is something Indian." So I included more conga drums. Then I tried many different violinists. They were good, but I wasn't satisfied-they would improvise well but would go far away from the composition. Then I finally got Jerry Goodman. He's a very good violinist who has been classically trained and who also plays jazz. When he played I was satisfied. I called him from Chicago and within a day he "felt it." Collin Walcott of Oregon helped write the staff notation. I also wanted either oboe or alto sax, so I got Paul McCandless from Oregon. He's a wonderful musician; his improvisation was a good match for my composition.
- an Ira Landgarten interview for Frets magazine in 1980

Artist: Vasant Rai & Oregon
Albums: Spring Flowers (1976) and Autumn Song (1978) on 1 CD
Label: Comet (2002)
Total time: 74:54

Spring Flowers:

1. Smile of Goddess Sarasvati 4:38
2. Distant Village 5:20
3. Spring Wind 5:57
4. Guitarist from Unjha 4:35
5. Saptak 6:54
6. Leaving Home 4:32
7. Midnight Meditation 6:53
All compositions by Vasant Rai

Vasant Rai (Sarod, Acoustic Guitar, Flute and Tamboura)
Collin Walcott (Tabla, Congas, Percussion, Sitar and Bass Guitar)
Glen Moore (Piano and Double Bass)
Paul McCandless (Oboe and French Horn)
Dilip Naik (Electric Guitar)
Jerry Goodman (Violin) - 1,3,5,6

Autumn Song:

1. Autumn Song 7:13
2. Country Wedding 4:52
3. Bhairui (Drak-Eyed Girl) 7:12
4. Lullaby 5:08
5. Late Night Guitar 3:43
6. Sunlight Dance 7:57
All compositions by Vasant Rai

Vasant Rai (Sarod, Flute, Guitar, Piano and Swarpeti)
Paul McCandless (Oboe and English Horn)
Collin Walcott (Tabla, Madal, Congas, Mouth Bow and Percussion)
Glen Moore (Double Bass)
Charles Kindler (Violin)
Robert Kindler (Cello)
Kokila Rai (Tamboura)
Martin Quinn (Drums)

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