By Howard Mandel | Published October 2022
Bassist Harish Raghavan provides a firm yet moody foundation for the distinctive voices gathered around his original works on his second album as a leader, In Tense. Mallet instrumentalist Joel Ross, electric guitarist Charles Altura, multi-winds player Martin Guerin and drummer Eric Harland prove well-attuned to Raghavan’s compositions, written during the pandemic.
The six tracks are richly orchestrated for drama and lyricism, often using repetition, timbre distinctions, and their affinities and dynamic nuances to underscore and frame individual or dueting players’ efforts. “AMA” has a slow, low, somber figure recurring throughout six minutes, supported by funereal drums, shadowy vibes and guitar, then an overlay of electric wind instrument with settings changing per chorus and grace-note swirls, leading to an intense Raghavan solo, beneath which collective vamping arises and goes on as if eternal. “Circus Music” takes an opposite tack with a quick, intricate head that Altura, Guerin and Ross harmonize on freely.
But the title track revisits the gloomy feel, horn and guitar laying a melody over a vibes-and-bass pattern. Why so glum, chum? Ross (Raghavan produced his Blue Note debut Kingmaker; Ross played on Raghavan’s prior Calls To Action) is stellar on marimba, followed by Altura and Guerin (again employing electronic effects) making dark, somehow bucolic music.
Intense is right. Raghavan’s personal sound is solid, his concepts resonant, and beauty floats through his music’s layered depths.
In Tense: AMA; Circus Music; In Tense; Eight-Thirteen; s2020; Prayer. (33:10)
Personnel: Harish Raghavan, bass; Joel Ross, vibraphone, marimba; Charles Altura, guitar; Morgan Guerin, tenor saxophone, electronic wind instrument, bass clarinet; Eric Harland, drums.
Ordering Info: whirlwindrecordings.com