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Tirtha

Tirtha

Vijay Iyer - Prasanna - Nitin Mitta

Label: ACT music
Format: CD
Barcode: 0614427950321
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Catalog number: ACT 95032
Releasedate: 04-03-11
Tirtha at once acknowledges and celebrates its diverse heritages, and yet is not restricted or easily reduced to any stereotypes about who these musicians are - or who they “should” be. What the band offers instead is an impassioned and beautiful act of self-definition.
  • One of today’s most acclaimed and respected young American jazz artists
  • Received the Musician of the Year Award in the 2010 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards
  • Received the 2010 Echo Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international ensemble with his trio
  • Downbeat Critics Poll for rising star jazz group of theH year
  • Historicity was named jazz album of the year by NY Times, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, National Public Radio, the annual Village Voice jazz critics poll, and the Downbeat International Critics Poll
  • Iyer has won the Downbeat Poll in multiple categories, the JJA Jazz Award for Up & Coming Musician of the Year, the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and numerous composer commissions
The Sanskrit word tīrtha (THEER-tha) literally means a ford, or a shallow place in a river that can be easily crossed over. Within a spiritual context, tirtha denotes a holy place near a body of water - somewhere where everyday struggles fall away, and where one passes easily into a deeper and more profound state of being. Aptly, Tirtha is now also the name of a phenomenal trio featuring three powerhouse musicians who at once honor and traverse the streams of tradition. It is also the name of their exciting new album on ACT.

Individually, Indian-American pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, Chennai (formerly Madras)-born guitarist-composer Prasanna, and Hyderabad native and tabla player Nitin Mitta are already highly accomplished artists who shift easily among multiple musical languages. Together, they have achieved a fully realized, deeply thoughtful, and truly innovative collaboration. Combining the elemental directness of rock, the chamber-like intimacy of raga, and bebop’s hard, angular drive, Tirtha achieves a profound interplay of melody and rhythm that characterizes the best jazz.

In his album notes, the award-winning Iyer describes the group’s genesis: “Tirtha (the band) formed in response to an invitation. In 2007 I was asked to put together a concert celebrating 60 years of Indian independence. Normally I’ve steered clear of fusion experiments that attempt to mix styles - to “create something,” as John Coltrane famously admonished, “more with labels, you see, than true evolution.” For this event I hoped to avoid those pitfalls, and offer something personal.

“I invited along Prasanna and Nitin Mitta, two outstanding musicians from India who have settled in the States. None of us had collaborated previously, but at our first rehearsal we felt a jolt of recognition. There was no question of “fusion,” no compromise, no attempt to sound more or less “Indian”; just a fluid musical conversation among three individuals, an atmosphere of camaraderie, a sense of beginning.”

Prasanna continues the thought from his unique vantage: “Tirtha is a logical extension of what I have been doing for many years in my own way - looking at global music today from the perspective of a Carnatic [south Indian classical] musician and looking at the rich tradition of Carnatic music from a contemporary Jazz/Rock/Classical musician's perspective. In a trio that fosters as much space as Tirtha does, these concepts take on a musical life that is shared with a unique synergy. Music eventually finds its own simple solution.”

These artists’ musical and cultural experiences are part of their creative DNA. Immediately, for example, you hear the distinctly South Indian, meticulous ornamentations of Prasanna’s guitar in dialogue with Iyer’s gloriously spacious harmonic palette, and Mitta’s superbly crisp Hindustani (north Indian classical) grooves and virtuosic, grounding presence. You hear familiar structural elements of jazz, Hindustani, and Carnatic music. However, the group completely shuns any musical clichés or previously heard “fusions” of those genres.

Instead you hear a band with ideas: the Reich-like rhythmic shifts of the driving opener “Duality”; the rhythmic vocalizing and drummed responses on “Tribal Wisdom”; “Abundance,” an Ellingtonian hymn with Carnatic nuances; the surprise post-punk anthem “Gauntlet”; the subtle majesty of the title track; the shimmering melodies of “Entropy and Time.” The pieces (alternately composed by Iyer and Prasanna) methodically open up to reveal the beating heart of the band’s improvisations: dynamic, astonishingly alive, with a deep sense of purpose.
Composer-pianist VIJAY IYER is one of today’s most acclaimed and respected young American jazz artists. He received the Musician of the Year award in the 2010 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards, the 2010 Echo Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international ensemble with his trio, and the Downbeat Critics Poll for rising star jazz group of the year. His latest recordings on the ACT label include Solo (2010) and the trio album Historicity (2009). Historicity was named jazz album of the year by The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, the annual Village Voice jazz critics poll, and the Downbeat International Critics Poll. In the past decade, Iyer has won the Downbeat Poll in multiple categories, the JJA Jazz Award for Up & Coming Musician of the Year, the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and numerous composer commissions.

Iyer has also composed orchestral and chamber works; scored for film, theater, radio and television; collaborated with poets and choreographers; and joined forces with artists in hip-hop, rock, experimental, electronic, and Indian classical music. He has performed and recorded with Steve Coleman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mike Ladd, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Amiri Baraka, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, Oliver Lake, dead prez, Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Imani Uzuri, Craig Taborn, Das Racist, and DJ Spooky, among others. He teaches at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, The New School, and School for Improvisational Music. His writings appear in Music Perception, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Current Musicology, JazzTimes, Wire, The Guardian, and the anthologies Uptown Conversation, Sound Unbound, Arcana IV, and The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010. For more info: www.vijay- iyer.com

The prolific guitarist and composer PRASANNA ‘plays like nobody on the planet,’ according to one Jazz critic. Equally accomplished in Carnatic (south Indian classical) music, jazz, film music, he has released over eleven Carnatic albums, the Raga Bop Trio with drummer Steve Smith and saxophonist George Brooks, the Carnatic/Rock Jimi Hendrix tribute album Electric Ganesha Land, the widely praised guitar instructional DVD Ragamorphism, a highly acclaimed Jazz Fusion album Be the Change, an eclectic solo guitar album Peaceful, a special triple guitar project Guitars with the Belgian band Aka Moon, and numerous guitar tracks on multi-platinum Indian film soundtracks for such top composers as A.R. Rahman, Illayaraja and many more.

Prasanna has performed/recorded with legendary names in the Jazz/ Fusion world including Joe Lovano, Larry Coryell, Anthony Jackson, Omar Hakim, Victor Wooten, Airto Moreira, Alphonso Johnson, Aka Moon, Trilok Gurtu, and Steve Smith, and from the Indian music world such as A. R. Rahman, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Illayaraja, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Trichy Sankaran and others. He was recognized with the 'Lifetime Achievement Award for Carnatic music for 2003' from H.H. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, one of India's most revered spiritual leaders. As a composer, Prasanna also scored the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary 'Smile Pinki,' as well as several scores for feature films and contemporary dance theater, and he orchestrated A.R. Rahman’s title score for the Oscar-nominated film Lagaan.
After studying engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Prasanna earned an honors degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston. A passionate educator now dividing his time between the U.S. and India, Prasanna is the founder President of Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, India's first professional college for contemporary music.

NITIN MITTA is one of the most prominent young tabla players in the world of Indian classical music. He has quickly established a reputation as a player with a rare combination of technical virtuosity, spontaneity, clarity of tone, and sensitivity to melodic nuance. He is a highly sought after accompanist having performed with some of India’s most celebrated musicians, such as Pandit Jasaraj, Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Shahid Parvez, and Srimati Ashwini Bhide, just to name a few. As a soloist he has performed at many prestigious organizations in India. Nitin's gurus' include Pt. G. Satyanarayana and Pt.Arvind Mulgaonkar, both of whom were disciples of late Ustad Amir Hussain Khan Saheb, legendary doyen of the Farukhabad Gharana.

Nitin Mitta maintains a busy schedule of performances and tabla workshops, traveling throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada and India. He has performed at several prominent venues including the Habitat Centre in New Delhi, the Nehru Centre in Mumbai, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Indian consulate in New York, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., and a variety of college campuses. He is featured on the Music Today album Soul Strings.