Review by Brad Walseth
One glance at the title of Eric Alabaster's new CD and you may be expecting to hear a wacky comedy album from the '60s, but fortunately the music contained within is a truly interesting and entertaining blend of American Jazz, Caribbean, Indian and Pakistani and other world music. Alabaster's years of playing with a wide range of artists from throughout the globe has influenced his effort here and the upshot is a release that should please adventurous listeners tired of the same listening experience.
Alabaster has assembled a stellar cast to create his visionary sounds: Jazz Passengers leader Roy Nathanson lends his talents on alto and soprano sax, adding several tasty solos, while trumpeter Duane Eubanks provides his usual exemplary sounds. This front line is utterly first-rate and they do not disappoint. Meanwhile, acoustic bassist Yoshi Waki shows why he is considered an up-and-coming talent on the New York scene with his steady and perceptive work, while surprising young guitarist Jay Vilnai shows an uncanny ability to bridge the line between jazz and world music, alluring the ears with his sitar-like runs and choice voicings. The additions of Mohamed Saleem on tabla and Anjana Roy on sitar (as well as Aziz Peerzada on vocals, Martha Hyde on clarinet and Jackie Henderson on bassoon) bring some more spice to the table, while throughout, bandleader Alabaster plays with awareness and quiet potency.
Songs veer delightfully from the Indian subcontinent ("3-6-9,") to Arabia ("Child's Play 1") to Beale Street (the bluesy "Tears For My Brother") to Trinidad ("Cornerstone Calypso"), while songs like "Off Hand," "Hubris" and "Promenade" display Alabaster's ability to write compellingly in the modern American jazz vein. With his recording of crazy love music, drummer/composer Alabaster has crafted a noteworthy release that reveals its secrets more upon repeated listening.