Roger Thomas - JAZZ REVIEW / Issue 11. August 2000
"Ah yes, this must be some of that wonderful 'crossover music' which an
increasingly desperate record industry keeps trying to flog to the Robbins
Report generation, eh cats? Well, my perception of a crossover audience is
one which, disillusioned by all this music which attempts to be so many
things that it ends up being nothing at all, simply crosses over to the pub
during the interval. And stays there. What an immense relief it is, then,
to find that John Mayer's legendary group is alive and better than ever.
The genesis of Indo -Jazz Fusions in the sixties is of course a landmark in
the history of Britjazz. The group was formed by Mayer and the legendary
Joe Harriott, each coincidentally representing non-indigenous cultures
which were even then adding new perspectives to British music, and recorded
a couple of LP's which became highly sought-after. For some listeners the
story ended there; others kept tabs on this captivating music, noting the
reissue of the LP's, its subsequent appearance on CD and, along the way,
the two CD's which the group recorded for Nimbus.
The overriding factor, however, is the joy-inducing realisation that the
group got it right to begin with and have simply gone on getting it righter
and righter, its evolving roster of personnel simply adding to, rather
than diluting, the group's originality. Mayer in particular has long been
one of the few musicians whose grounding in both Indian music and the
various musical traditions of both the USA and Europe has been genuinly
watertight, if I'm allowed to mix metaphors. This has meant that the
'fusion' takes place in a context of genuine musical integration rather
than at the superficial level which the likes of Shiva Nova settled for
when, for example, they acquired Orphy Robinson as a collaborator. For
many others who have attempted to develop the form, it's been a road paved
with good intentions but leading nowhere.
This CD, however , is absolutely the right stuff, being once again exactly
what it appears to be - a powerful, elegant, frequently witty and
technically masterful undertaking which explores and, crucially, extends
the ways in which jazz and Indian music are genuinely at home with each
other. It's worth buying this disc just for the woodwind riff on the
opening track, or for the composition contributed by I-JF veteran Kenny
Wheeler, or even for "Acka Raga", the jolly encore piece at the end of the
disc which Mayer wrote for Acker Bilk and which the elderly will also
recall as the theme music for one of Robert Robinson's television shows.
Interestingly, a press release relating to a different group altogether has
just hit my in-tray, in which 'Indo-Jazz fusion' is offhandedly referred to
as an identifiable musical genre. Hmm..."