Label: Ropeadope, 2017
Lineup – Richard X Bennett: piano; Matt Parker: tenor and soprano saxophone; Lisa Parrott: baritone and alto saxophone; Adam Armstrong: bass; Alex Wyatt: drums.
With Experiments With Truth, Toronto-born, New York-based pianist/composer Richard X Bennett shows his love for the Indian music as he presents eight raga-based, melody-oriented original compositions empowered by the massive lines of saxophonists Matt Parker (tenor and soprano) and Lisa Parrott (baritone and alto). The rhythm section is rounded out by the trustful members of his trio: bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Alex Wyatt.
This is not the first time Bennett incurs in the classical Indian tradition, having released Ragas on Piano (Dreams Entertainment, 2009), Raga & Blues (Mystica Music, 2011), and New York City Swara (Times Music, 2013). However, this quintet session is his first work on an American label.
The first three tracks are colorfully designed with an attractive combination of Eastern melodic structures and a zesty jazz that sometimes steps on the avant-garde zone, mostly due to occasional incendiary reed dances, a key ingredient.
“The Fabulist”, based on the ancient Raga Malkauns, shows exactly that energetic flow, contrasting with the sultry ritual of “Portrait in Sepia”, a tune evocative of Duke Ellington, whose introductory bass slides and musical descriptions fit in the African Sahara and Indian landscapes alike. The rhythm section is exemplary while propelling an uncompromising caravan that counts on the groovy feeling delivered by Parrott’s baritone to advance. While Bennett, a texture builder rather than a soloist, chooses the best notes to preserve the song’s mood, Armstrong often shines by resorting to chromatic coloration.
I stumbled upon a strange duality on “Say Om 108 Times” since I can hear it as a happy R&B tune or as an optimistic mantra. While Parrott wrings a few low-pitched ‘om’ without wasting the chance of conveying some hype, cool patterns, Parker embarks on a frantic crusade that feels reinvigorating in its in-and-out definitions.
From this point onward, and despite an inclination to Pharaoh Sanders’ spiritual hymns evinced on the second part of the Durga Suite, the album declines a little bit, only returning to its best on the last tune, the title track (Raga Ramkali), where one can luxuriate in a clamorous saxophone exchange on top of the routemarch sparkled by Wyatt’s snare drum.
02 - Portrait in Sepia ► 03 - Say Om 108 Times ► 08 - Experiments With Truth