Review by Brad Walseth
One of the highlights of this year's Jazz Fest for me, was the opportunity to hear the Matt Geraghty Project perform selections from their latest album, "Passport," live. Despite working in the less-than-ideal conditions of the Jazz & Heritage stage tent and dealing with a malfunctioning sound system, Geraghty and band overcame these problems to put on an enjoyable concert for those in attendance.
As a former Chicagoan, now located in New York City, Geraghty has traveled the world playing and studying to perfect his musical blend of various cultures, overlaid over a Western pop/jazz structure, and it is an utterly engaging end result. Using a talented selection of well-known players, including Ben Lewis on piano, Steve Ramsdell and Neal Alger on guitar, Jeff Fortin and Paul Wertico on drums, and special guest Howard Levy on harmonica, Geraghty's fascinating compositions shine. A mixture of Indian, South American, Near and Far Eastern, American jazz and even rock, these songs bridge cultures seamlessly, without sounding forced.
Geraghty's playing on the bass is wonderful as well, confident and interesting melodically and rhythmically (see his sweet solo turn on the album ender). But it is vocalist Satya Gummuluri who may be the secret weapon. Her wordless vocal lines act as an additional instrument, washing like waves upon a shore, while her singing of traditional Hindu, Sanskrit, and Sufi/Punjabi love poems shimmer with erotic delight. Along with Geraghty's originals, the band also covers a popular standard from the Hindu film, Howrah Bridge, as well as a setting of a traditional poem to music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
World music, in a good sense of the word, there are times, such as on "Fez El Bali," "Lisboa," "Café del Prado" and "C and D Groove," that the jazz truly comes through, proving just what a potent mix this can be. Meanwhile, two of the songs ("Havana Club" and "
Song for Ciro") were recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with local musicians, lending a nice sense of authenticity to the proceedings.
I would suggest keeping an eye on Geraghty as the world grows even smaller daily, as I think he has found a musical blueprint in his musical potpourri that is most perceptive and timely. In these times of world strife and conflicts between culture and clan, Matt Geraghty's unique blend of world musical styles offers a passport to peace through the shared passion for the harmonious aural experience.