The Tarun Balani Collective – Sacred World (2013)

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A wonderfully textured and mystical recording, Sacred World is a tremendous introduction to drummer and composer Tarun Balani. Based on New Delhi, he introduces a quintet here that fleshes out to form the Tarun Balani Collective. Among its members are pianist Sharik Hasan and guitarist Aditya Balani.

The composer and bandleader finds inspiration seemingly everywhere, from his roots in India to his experiences in New York City and beyond. The first Indian student selected for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Balani’s playing moves beyond borders and genres and into a more universal realm.

Sacred World opens with “Belief,” a piece that bobs with the drummer’s understanding of traditional American jazz elements. Hasan cuts a bold swath on the ivories, while Balani’s snare hits. After the insistent introduction, the tune scatters into noir textures that are augmented by Bruno Råeberg’s oaky bass-playing.

Balani, who served as a member of such outfits as Incognito and Artistes Unlimited, comes by his approach honestly and never falls into self-righteousness. Because of his borderless enthusiasm, his group follows in his footsteps. And because of his indelible patience, his pieces are as roomy as they are crucial.

The serenity of “The Other Side” exemplifies this. Hasan plays low, vital notes, while Aditya Balani’s guitar punctuates with striking, glassy accents. It’s Råeberg’s bass that affords the philosophical heart of the song, however.

Balani’s Indian background glimmers in pieces like “Azaan,” which provokes with fretless guitar-playing and a sense of mysterious architectural build. The drummer’s splashes add an almost march-like quality, while the vocals of Suhail Yusuf Khan elevate things to the spiritual realm.

“Varsha” is among Sacred World’s more uniquely textured tracks. Portentous percussion grounds the piece and Balani makes quite a commotion with his cymbals before sparkling keys add a ray of light. Once more, Råeberg’s bass is a guiding force and the number points uphill to the otherworldly.

Through the eight pieces on his debut record, Tarun Balani not only fuses seemingly incongruent fundamentals in seamless fashion but he constructs tales. Sacred World is planted amongst the magic of tradition and dreams of the divine, locking the listener in for a journey of hope that is foundationally strengthened by one hell of a player.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at [email protected]
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