Toronto saxophonist / composer Sundar Viswanathan's 2016 project Avataar, has just released a new conceptual album of his songs entitled, simply, Petal.
The points of contact between the floral experience and this aural experience are distinct but comparable.
From the calyx of mystical thought expressed in the packaging and in scattered sound bites, musical and spoken statements of union and growth develop throughout the record. Melodies evolve organically, usually in unison duet tendrils, which intertwine to explore an ornate trellis of tabla work by Ravi Naimpally, the ground cover of the impressionistic drumming of Giampaolo Scatozza, or concrete facades of crystalline rock in the jagged designs of Michael Occhipinti's multifaceted electronic guitar work.
Deploying his personnel to immerse themselves in the pure and strengthening element of inspiration, Sundar's compositions achieve results that are rarely divergent. The temperance of expression is maintained by the steady polyrhythmic contemplations of bassist / producer Justin Gray, whose presence fertilizes the collective imaginations of the ensemble. He comes to the record with an impressive history of of Indo-Jazz composition and recorded output. In recent live performances of the Petal repertoire, his sound is more dominant and expressive, but his ability to play with a lighter palette on the record affixes the odd discordant moment, as in Monsoon's clashing harmonies, to an overall serenity. At other points, especially in the album's central energy nexus of Infinite Open and Ishwar, he sustains a muscular fabric that counter-balances the straining polytonality of Viswanathan's charts and the improvisations of the players.
The thoughtful vocals of Felicity Williams and the rippling Hindustani singing of special guest Samidha Joglekar, radiate the fragrances of Hindu temples, the circuitous purr of a swarm of evening crickets and the re-invigorating whisper of a breezy sprinkle over this entire garden of musical delights.
Episodic and involving in its effects, Petal is a fresh bouquet of colour and sound that will reward your cultivated attention.