Few fusions of different musical genres work as well as the East meets west pairing of Indian music and jazz. Both are created through intense devotion, spiritually profound and both are often misunderstood. However, I think it is the fact that both are created through spontaneous inspiration, improvised with very little 'composed' elements which harmonizes two seemingly disparate categories.
Lakshminarayana Shankar (no blood relative, incidentally, to the great sitar player Ravi) came to prominence in Europe in the mid seventies as a member of John McLaughlin's band Shakti and became a highly regarded classical musician in his native India, recording dozens of albums and performing hundreds of concerts around the world before this classic set was taped in 1983.
What sets Shankar apart from other violinists is his amazing electricfied instrument of ten strings on two necks which can be played individually or simultaneously, allowing him to accompany himself as well as other musicians. His unconventional non-Western tuning and mostly microtonal language sets cascades of harmonics ringing and when juxtaposed with an idiosyncratic combination of Jan Garbarek's saxes and Palle Mikkelborg's trumpet and flugelhorn, we get a cocktail of flying sparks and graceful and often intensely lyrical statements.
The former certainly fly in one of ECM's most incredible recordings ever. Psychic Elephant finds Mikkelborg by turns pensive and jubilant, his whimsical lines exquisitely accompanied by the violin's delicate pizzicato embroidery. Garbarek, tender as always on soprano sax, generates much momentum and then creates a gruff, grunting and wailing creature from the horn of his rarely heard bass saxophone. Shankar strums and bows furiously through his most powerful 'jazz' statement yet and one conveyed with immense agility, dynamism and an irresistible sense of humour.
All For You, the opening track, displays equally the trio's dexterity, executing a complex and twisting theme to a gently pulsating and droning Shankar backdrop before Garbarek's tenor horn growls in almost Earl Bostic vain.
In contrast, witness the title track and The Message for an example of Shankar's momentous exercises in suspended and meditational animation.
Though some may find it a tad static at times, listening to this record is a soul-feeding experience, like hearing the songs of whales or dolphins. I certainly find Vision a satisfying and entertaining album full of exotic noises and cool culture clashes.
All Music Guide