CD review

Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive – Ragmala. A Garland of Ragas

Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive – Ragmala. A Garland of Ragas
(Meta Records. Double CD review by Fiona Mactaggart)

Pioneer of world music, master percussionist, composer, band leader and teacher Adam Rudolph has brought together 40 top-of-their-game musicians from two of the most interesting bands in the USA, Go: Organic Orchestra (of which Rudolph is artistic director) and the rhythmically evolved, inclusive Brooklyn Raga Massive. Gubernacular bands both, the potentiating effect of this inspired collaboration results in something that exceeds their sum.

In 1978 Rudolph co-founded the Mandingo Griot Society, one of the very first bands to combine African and American music. Over the years he has worked with a great many jazz names: Yusef Lateef, Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Wadada Leo Smith to name just a few. These days Rudolph composes for his bands Moving Pictures, Hu Vibrational and for the 30-piece Go: Organic Orchestra for which he has developed an open, non-linear style of composition and annotation, whilst favouring rhythmicity and improvisation.

With ten tracks on each of the two CDs, Ragmala is unwaveringly emotionally and cognitively, some might say spiritually engaging transcultural jazz, the impressive globe-traversing array of musical instruments ranging from tenor sax and electric bass to okonkolo, nohkan and mineiro, not to mention the occasional touch of overtone singing.

The liner notes share that Rudolph’s favourite Western classical compositions include those of fellow mould-breakers Ligeti, Messiaen and Takemitsu; certainly, Wandering Star strongly evoked Gyorgy Ligeti for this listener.

The most pervasive feel however is that of meditation, so it comes as no surprise to learn that Rudolph is a life-long practitioner of yoga. Indian classical instruments are often prominent, with the contemplative sitar and bansuri of Sunset Lake an especially beautiful highlight. The pacing is spot-on, with the highly ruminative pieces punctuating busier ones such as the rich Savannahs and the carnaptiously energetic Glare of The Tiger.

In the jazz world, not since Sun Ra has this reviewer heard anything so successful at reaching the parts other music generally fails to reach. Rudolph’s music could be described as magisterial, if this were not too high ego a term for such frankly generous, often improvisational playing and seamless integration of global sounds. This double album feels like a milestone in the evolution of truly world music.

Ragmala. A Garland of Ragas is released on 18 October 

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