Melodic Intersect,
Looking Forward
(Aimrec, 2017)

The cover of Melodic Intersect's new album, their sixth, tells the story: The picture shows a tenor sax resting against a piano. Next to it is a tabla, which has leaning against it a guitar. A sitar rests next to the guitar.

Here, then, is the basic instrumentation of Melodic Intersect, a band formed by tabla player Enayet Hossain to explore the intersection of jazz and Indian music.

The music of India is much more varied and complex than many of us give it credit for being. Used to the sitar playing of Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan (whose son plays sitar in Melodic Intersect), we assume that's what Indian music is. Well, that's just a part of it. As the one-sheet that came with this album points out, India is made up of 28 states, each with its own culture, dialect, tradition and religion, not to mention its own music. What those approaches to music have in common, though, is a high level of improvisation, a statement that also applies to jazz. Small wonder, then, that Melodic Intersect is able to blend jazz and Indian music so successfully.

The result is a world music that soothes and challenges simultaneously. The challenge? When the first song on the album, "Jazzy Streets of Mumbai," kicked off, I was ready to turn off the stereo and move on to something more familiar. The tabla and sitar dominated the beginning of the song and my response was automatic: Oh, no, not the interminable sitar solo. Within a minute or so, however, I was hooked. The guitar and the sitar began playing unisons and then octaves. Within just a couple of minutes, music that was strange and off-putting became strange and wonderful.

"Without Borders" is a highlight on the disc, featuring Kahn's sitar, Reg Hatzaq's keyboards, Joy Islam's guitar and Fred Koch's sax. The song both shows the virtuosity of the musicians and the strength of their songwriting and improvisation skills.

If you are a fan of world music, jazz or Indian music -- in fact, if you are a fan of unusual, complex and moving music of any sort that is presented honestly and sincerely, then you'll like Melodic Intersect.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

16 September 2017

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