Monday , April 22 2024
The Pakistani orchestra proves that jazz can make its mark all over the world.

Music Review: Sachal Studios Orchestra – ‘Jazz and All That’

Conventional wisdom might lead you to expect that an album subtitled “In Memory of Dave Brubeck” would be devoted to the pianist’s music. No. Perhaps it is devoted to music played the way he and his quartet might have played it.  No. There is nothing at all conventional about Pakistan’s Sachal Studios Orchestra’s Jazz and All That, an album in memory of Dave Brubeck.

888003190153.255x255-75Their size—almost 50, if you count the chorus that sings on one number and additional musicians—redefines the definition of big band and is certainly nothing like the foursome which made Brubeck famous. Their instrumentation—sitar, tabla, cello, violin—isn’t the kind of thing you’re likely to find in the typical jazz ensemble. Some of the album’s repertoire—tunes like “Morning Has Broken” and “Eleanor Rigby”—are not the usual fare. Even the group’s Pakistani origins seem to defy conventional stereotypes.

Still even cursory attention to their work makes it abundantly clear that their music may not be conventional, but it certainly honors a vital tradition. Look at the mission statement on the Sachal Studios website: “Sachal Studios was born to produce the music of melody, acoustic harmony and rhythms that rock the heart.” Indeed, their music is the realization of what Dave Brubeck once said he wanted to be remembered for.

In the liner notes he is quoted as saying, “I believe that I have opened doors for future musicians of every color and ethnicity. I invite them to explore, perfect, extend and move beyond anything I have ever done.”  It is no accident that before his death Brubeck praised their recording of his classic “Take Five” as “the most interesting” he’d ever heard. He was also clear that it was the most “different” as well. This is a group of splendid musicians who have gone through the door Brubeck has opened. They have accepted his invitation.

The 13 pieces on the album come from a wide range of the musical spectrum. Jazz classics are represented by Pat Metheny’s “To the End of the World,” and another interesting and different version of Brubeck’s own “Blue Rondo à La Turk.” There is some modern rock in Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got it Bad Girl” and REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” There is a little Eastern-flavored bossa nova with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave,” and a nod or two to world traditions with “Monsoon” which they note is based on the classical music of South Asia and “Ponteio,” which they explain echoes the traditional music of the Punjab. They even include something from the Great American Songbook with a remarkable arrangement of “Moonlight in Vermont.” They take you half way through the song before they even hint at the melody. All tracks are arranged by Izzat Majeed, the album’s producer and co-founder of the studio.

Jazz and All That is another of the many albums that demonstrates that jazz may have been born and nurtured in America, but it has grown up to become a citizen of the world.

About Jack Goodstein

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