Young Seattle-based saxophonist Neil Welch produces distinctive and unique new music for his very first offering as leader with this new album. Containing sophisticated new charts diced with a good share of improvisation and featuring a strong Indian influence, Narmada is not your average contemporary jazz recording. Not an easy listen, the music here may be favored by aficionados of the genre who can best appreciate the different Indian rhythms, sounds of the sitar and the musical variety Welch presents with his seemingly free-jazz style of play.
Regardless of whether one prefers Indian style music, avant-garde or a free-jazz approach, Narmada is intelligent new music designed to challenge the listener. Introduced by bassist Luke Bergman, "Madness in Motion" opens up soft and slowly then is transformed by Welch’s lucid saxophone phrasings reaching a climax of sounds. Influenced by the great John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, Welch’s second composition, "The Search" pays homage to these legends featuring pianist Brian Kinsella displaying his formidable chops on one of the best numbers on the album.
Just when you think that the tune, "Paranoid Android" could calm things down a bit, guitarist Cameron Peace peels off hard-driving rockish-like chords only to be eclipsed by the leaders own intense playing of his instrument. The fifth ("Neptune") and sixth ("Darker") tracks, come across more as rants of improvisation than music.
The title tune and the finale, "Raga Kirwani" gives the recording its Indian flavor featuring Pandit Debi Prasad Chatterjee on the sitar. If saxophonist Neil Welch is intent on separating himself from the rest of the crowd and making a distinctly different impression in the jazz world, Narmada has become the vehicle for the realization of that distinction. With this project, Welch forges ahead creating new music that stretches the boundaries of this thing we call, jazz.