About thirty years separate the recording dates of these two releases.
The 'Indo-Jazz Fusions' (combined here on one CD) were first released in
1967 and 1968. After Joe Harriott died in 1973, John Mayer did not want to
carry on with the band. Following a short-lived version with Steve
Williamson earlier in the decade, Mayer formed the new Indo-jazz Fusions in
1995. 'Ragatal', their second release, was recorded in October 1997.
Listening to these two CD's back-to-back sheds light on the changes of the
past thirty year. Indian music was fashionable in the late 60's, thanks to
the likes of George Harrison and Donovan, and their patronage of Ravi
Shankar. However, cross fertilisation between different traditions was
rare. Despite jazz musicians like Yusef Lateef and Coltrane displaying
Eastern influences, 'World Music' was many years away. In that climate,
'Indo-Jazz Fusions' was a bold, innovative and influential record. Despite
the title, this never sounds like fusion of raga and jazz. Passages of jazz
alternate with raga. There is little here that has ambiguous origins. The
more rigid discipline of the raga is dominant rhythmically and texturally,
with the jazz players making compromises to fit in. Those looking for a
source of Joe Harriott's legendary status will not find it here (try 'Free
Form' instead). Nonetheless, this is fascinating music that stands up well
to repeated listening.
Jumping ahead thirty years, to current incarnations of the group, we find a
very different story. Music is now global; cross-fertilisation between
different traditions (deliberate or otherwise) is the norm. Significantly,
the group is no longer called 'a double quintet' (i.e one jazz, one
Indian), it is an integrated ensemble; the Indian and jazz elements are now
more fully and successfully blended than in the Harriott group. There are
other elements of World Music too; 'Miyan ki Malhar' has distinctly South
Despite the inclusion of instrumentation associated with jazz (sax,
trumpet, double bass) the music is almost all scored, even the solos, John
Mayer does not believe in too much improvisation - after all, he is
Professor of Composition and Composer in Residence at Birmingham
However, some solos do sound very spontaineous and in the jazz tradition.
Anna Brooks tenor solo in 'Partita' would not be out of place on a Stan
Getz record. Even though there is genuine fusion in this music, to my ears
the dominant sound is still that of India. Maybe Indian ears would say the
jazz influence dominates.
Anyway, Duke Ellington said, 'There are two types of music - good and bad.'
This is good.
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