- by John Cumming, co-founder, director, Serious/London Jazz Festival, 1980s-2019

SHRI SRIRAM

' I've known and admired Shri for a long time now...... His band from the late 90s with dj Badmarsh - aptly, and to avoid any mistaken identity, called Badmarsh and Shri - were in the vanguard of the UK's Asian underground, probing grooves from the sub-continent with the language of hip-hop that featured across various strands of our concert programming during the early 2000s, and is how we first got to know each other, and hang out together. It was crystal clear then that this was an artist of many talents. His bass sound in itself was, and is, a joy to listen to - not just the provider of  killer grooves, it's also a source of rich and glorious melody.   

 

But Shri is also composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, who's been amidst a myriad of activity that's included a succession of admired scores for film, music and dance, in India as well as the UK and Europe; collaborations with Nitin Sawnhey and Talvin Singh, orchestral adventures with Joanna MacGregor and the Britten Sinfonia (interpreting music by Moondog); duets with the great Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen;  and Just a Vibration, his fascinating and inspiring collision of Indian classical and street music and the brass band tradition of the north of England, which won a coveted British Composer Award in 2016. 

 

Shri - as both bassist and composer - has been at the beating heart of The Third Orchestra, a new approach to the idea of the chamber orchestra that I've been developing with composer and musical catalyst Peter Wiegold.   His generosity of spirit is reflected by his role as musical mentor with Croydon Composers, which encourages cross cultural / genre collaborations between aspiring and established composers, set up by his wife Shirin in their home London borough of Croydon. 

This sumptuously crafted album is the result of a long and fruitful association with Norwegian keyboardist and producer, Bugge Wesseltoft, fittingly released here on Bugge's own label.  In many ways, it acts as a microcosm of Shri's sonic world, and especially the friendships he's made in the Norwegian jazz scene.  The sounds and landscapes of India are never far away, but they're transformed by musical experiences and collaborations that have helped to define his journey thus far. 

 

Elegaic solo bass statements contrast with band tracks that travel from free electronic improv to insistent, driving rhythms - Boiling Point features Wesseltoft and the powerful drumming of Paolo Vinaccia. Two tracks feature the expressive saxophone of Tore Brunborg - unmistakeably nordic in tone, a perfect foil for Shri's bass and, in Uvdal, his plaintive bansuri, the instrument itself somehow resonant of a timeless Indian landscape. Entwined is a ruminative conversation with multi-reeds player Ben Castle (here playing bass clarinet), his partner on the Just a Vibration project.

 

The final track features a delicately nuanced duet with Arild Andersen that positively glows with the sense of warmth and friendship that inhabits this recording from the beginning - and is entirely at one with Shri's dedication of the album to the inspiration of another prominent member of the bass players' union, the wonderful Eberhard Weber. 

 

Indeed, Shri and I may well have hung backstage at one of Eberhard's London concerts, back in the distant past.  If we didn't, we should have.....

 

Thanks, Shri, for an hour of exquisite music.'

- John Cumming

© 2020  - Drum The Bass

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