Irene Schweizer – Jazz Meets India




This milestone session from the black forest brings together masters of the Raga system with open-minded European jazz prominence. The pioneering experiment opened up J.E. Berendts famous “Jazz meets the World” series.

Every time you listen to recordings and tours that Joachim Ernst Berendt initiated especially in the 1960s you are completely amazed about his visionary character. Among the many sessions he produced with musicians from different cultures there is one special landmark album on MPS which showcases his ceaseless explorations in the meeting of different cultures as a stunning work-in-progress way. At the same time this recording was the beginning of his long and profound excursions into the “Jazz meets the World” series.
According to Mani Neumeier, the incomparable drum wizard, J.E. Berendt approached him one day asking if he had connections to Indian musicians. Indeed, Neumeier had enjoyed lessons with the tabla master Keshav Sathe in London. Like many other musicians at that time (1965) he was exploring how to get rid of the old-fashioned way of playing jazz. To achieve this he integrated the philosophy of Eastern musical systems into his art, like his band leader at that time, the progressive pianist Irène Schweizer did, studying recordings by Ravi Shankar which added to her predilections for modal systems.
Neumeier convinced Berendt to get the “Jazz meets India” idea into shape by engaging the Irène Schweizer trio (which also featured bassist Uli Trepte) and calling in Keshav Sathe and two of his companions. Luckily one of them was no less a person than sitar player Dewan Motihar, student of Ravi and responsible for arousing the Beatles’ interest in India. To create a colourful link for the two trios Berendt grouped trumpet player Manfred Schoof and French saxophonist Barney Wilen in-between and thus created an ensemble which reflected the state of mind of the late ‘60s in a beautiful way.
”Jazz meets India” met an enthusiastic audience at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 1967 and also gave a concert at the Berliner Jazztage during the newly created “Jazz meets the World” series. The three recordings which appear on this record came into being during a studio session and are a breathtaking documentary of how the different parts of the band feel their way towards the other culture. In his original liner notes Berendt points out that this is by no means an attempt to prove the unity of Jazz and Indian music, nor is it a meeting in an abstract, uninhabitable no man’s land.
You can vividly witness the laboratory character of the session in Mohitar’s epic “Sun Love”, inspired by a graphical sketch of Neumeier and based on the early morning Raga “Bhairvi”. The Indian ensemble starts creating the mood, is gently joined by the Schweizer Trio when Irène’s piano begins revolving around the sitar before developing a free improvisation. The expressive soli of Schoof and Wilen, the latter imitating the mood of the South Indian woodwind instrument shanai, are alternated by Motihar coming back with contemplative interludes. “YAAD” is a dreamlike piece which spins around Motihar’s lyrical, even bluesy voice and the caressing soprano sax in tranquility. The final track “Brigach and Ganges” builds a bridge between the banks of the little Black Forest river where the studio was situated and the giant Indian waterway. But this time it happens the other way: It evolves as a free jazz piece with the collective horns and bass impro and steers into the Indian river once again with dialogues between Motihar and Schweizer as well as Schoof, pushed forward to the closing section by Neumeiers eruptive adventures.

A stunning set in which it is a natural course of action that every musician respects and listens to each other – and we dare to say a more sincere approach to Indian music than many of the half-hearted world music blendings of nowadays.

Irene Schweizer – piano
Uli Trepte – bass
Mani Neumeier – drums
Dewan Motihar – sitar, vocals
Keshav Sathe – tabla
Kusum Thakur – tambura
Barney Wilen – soprano and tenor sax
Manfred Schoof – coornet, trumpet

(originally) side I

1. Sun Love 17:44
(originally) side II
2. YAAD 5:19
3. Brigach and Ganges 14:35