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.
The two guitarists take the opportunity on “Father And Son” to explore and to exploit these multiple possibilities to the full: “Irish Vagabond” combines full-on Irish folk music with Arabic elements. “Mistral” is rhythmically punchy, almost like a rock tune, and also has echoes of Al Di Meola. In this tune Ulf Wakenius recounts an experience he had while on tour with Youn Sun Nah. At the Avignon Festival, a powerful wind from the South “almost blew me off the stage, so I decided to write a song about it.” Their “Eleanor Rigby” is captivating; as they honour the Beatles, they achieve a sonority remarkably close to a string quartet. “Paco’s Delight” pays tribute to the unforgettable Paco de Lucía, but their Spanish flamenco technique is also imbued with the buoyancy and verve of Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club swing.
“The Big Wig” is a masterpiece by the multi-talented vocal marvel Andreas Schaerer. This is a work which situates him quite clearly and definitively among the most important composers and interpreters of contemporary music of his generation.
Nguyên Lê is a maverick, a hyper-fluent guitarist with a penchant for mixing up genres. Born in Paris of Vietnamese descent, he’s regarded as a jazz musician, though his most celebrated albums pay tribute to 60s rock gods like Hendrix and Floyd. Here he teams up with a young traditionalist, Ngô Hong Quang, on fiddle and lute to portray “the soul of Vietnam” and its quickening evolution. There are jaunty folkish tunes, temple bells and ethereal melodies with titles like Heaven’s Ground, but nothing arrives without surprises. One moment you are among mountain clouds, then Lê unleashes a storm of widdly-diddly electric axe. Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu adds elegant Milesesque licks to a remarkable fusion of ancient and modern.
Swedish Folk Modern first appeared in 1998 and was the first duo collaboration between Nils Landgren and Esbjörn Svensson. At the time the well-known German jazz journalist and pianist Michael Naura wrote: "Don’t ignore the CD Swedish Folk Modern, with first class Swedish improvisers Nils Landgren (trombone) and Esbjörn Svensson (piano). At last something beautiful after all the rubbish which is appearing on the market. This CD release became a worldwide success and was followed by the CD Layers Of Light (ACT 9281-2) in 2001.
Despite the fact that 2008’ Leucocyte, would be the Esbjörn Svensson Trio's final album due to the tragic scuba diving accident that killed Svensson, this was a band that had traversed such wide musical territory they deserved a retrospective treatment simply to sum up what had transpired between the release of 1993’s When Everyone Has Gone and that premature finale. While this 70-minute single disc doesn’t contain any unreleased material, or pre-1999 material (in favor of presenting the trio’s fully developed aesthetic), it is beautifully compiled.