Even from the globalized world’s point of view in the year 2010 every time you listen to recordings and tours Joachim Ernst Berendt initiated especially in the 1960s you are completely amazed about his visionary character. Among the many sessions he produced with musicians from different cultures there is one special landmark album on MPS which showcases his ceaseless explorations in the meeting of different cultures as a stunning work-in-progress. At the same time this recording was the beginning of his long and profound excursions into the “Jazz meets the World” series.
According to Mani Neumeier, the incomparable drum wizard, J.E. Berendt approached him one day asking if he had connections to Indian musicians. Indeed, Neumeier had enjoyed lessons with the tabla master Keshav Sathe in London (1965), in order to explore how to get rid of the old-fashioned way of playing jazz by integrating the philosophy of Eastern musical systems into his art.
Neumeier convinced Berendt to get the “Jazz meets India” idea into shape by engaging the Irène Schweizer trio (which also featured bassist Uli Trepte) and calling in Keshav Sathe and two of his companions. Luckily one of them was no less a person than sitar player Dewan Motihar, student of Ravi and responsible for arousing the Beatles’ interest in India. To create a colourful link for the two trios Berendt grouped trumpet player Manfred Schoof and French saxophonist Barney Wilen in-between and thus created an ensemble which reflected the state of mind of the late ‘60s in a beautiful way.
The three recordings on ”Jazz meets India” are a breathtaking documentary of how the different parts of the band feel their way towards the other culture. You can vividly witness the laboratory character of the session in Mohitar’s epic “Sun Love”, inspired by a graphical sketch of Neumeier and based on the Raga “Bhairvi”. The Indian ensemble starts creating the mood, is gently joined by Irène’s piano revolving around the sitar, before a free improvisation develops with expressive solos of Schoof and Wilen, alternated by Motihar’s contemplative interludes. “YAAD” is a dreamlike piece which spins around Motihar’s lyrical, even bluesy voice and the caressing soprano sax in tranquility. The final track “Brigach and Ganges” builds a bridge between the banks of the little Black Forest river near the MPS-studio and the giant Indian waterway. This time it happens the other way: It evolves as a free jazz piece with the collective horns and bass impro and steers into the Indian river once again with dialogues between Motihar and Schweizer as well as Schoof, pushed forward to the closing section by Neumeier’s eruptive adventures.
In his original liner notes Berendt points out that this is by no means an attempt to prove the unity of Jazz and Indian music. But it is a stunning set in which it is a natural course of action that every musician respects and listens to each other – and we dare to say a more sincere approach to Indian music than many of the half-hearted world music blendings of nowadays.