United Structures

Greenleaf Music

Prasanna, Nitin Mitta, Vijay Iyer

They did it!

Uniting languages of improvisation and composition is always a tricky proposition. Prasanna, Nitin, and Vijay pulled it off last night at the Jazz Standard, each bringing a deep sense of structure and spontaneity, playing skillfully with the syntax of jazz and Carnatic music.

On arriving in Mumbai in 1998 to play with Satya, the first question I was asked by a journalist was pretty daunting. “Many people have tried to find a synthesis between Indian music and jazz, and all have failed. What makes you think you will be any different?”

Of course that’s preposterous. Shakti, U Srinivas, and many others, including more recently Rudresh Mahanthappa and Kadri Gopalnath put forth compelling hybrids. True, it’s not an easy thing to do. These languages of improvisation are extremely different in use and function.

To hear the idea presented with such transparency by Tirtha was astounding. That it was a simple trio of guitar, piano and tabla made the interactions all the more breathtaking. Pieces by Prasanna and Vijay contrasted well, the music moving from sharp compound rhythms to fluid melodies, great soloing but not only soloing, bouts of trading that succeeded in liquidating the traditional ensemble roles. Nitin played several show-stopping tabla solos. I hope they are able to perform more, it’s a new language that will only deepen with time.