Great jazz with the right touch of India

I only have eyes for you CD Cover

TimeOut Mumbai / Bangalore, CD Of The Fortnight, 07 Dec 2012

I Only Have Eyes for You, UNK: The Radha Thomas, Ensemble R120 on Flyte
UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble’s new album I Only Have Eyes for You is different, one realizes, from the very first notes. It was not the standard Indian ragas played on western instruments plus tabla. Radha Thomas and band have taken the essence of Indian classical music (phrasing, rhythms and harmonies) and blended it seamlessly with mainstream jazz to create something totally new and exciting. Bravo UNK!

The album consists of eight numbers – four original compositions, three jazz standards and a Latin jazz track for which lyrics are written by Thomas. Her very husky vocals are recorded such that they are not in your face, somewhat similar to Sade – but still compel attention. So listen carefully. Also in true jazz style, the accompanying musicians are given lots of space to show off their talents.

The album opens with the original “Call” – one can immediately hear the subtle Carnatic influences in Thomas’ phrasing and the way Matt Littlewood’s lovely soprano sax almost sounds like a flute. The other originals are “Connections” and “Refuge”. I loved “Refuge”, which starts off with some nice (and heavy) bass notes, but also has piano, sax solos and Indian vocals by Radha. This track is the pick of the album.

The peppy Latin number “Menina Moca”, also features extended sax solos, shows Thomas’ virtuosity not only as a singer but also as a lyricist. The three standards “Almost like being in love”, I only have eyes for you” and “Watermelon Man” are handled in straight ahead jazz style and are really fun to listen to because it is obvious that the musicians were having a great time – especially in “Watermelon Man”. All in all, a very enjoyable CD of great jazz with the right touch of India.

UNK is Radha Thomas on vocals, Aman Mahajan on the piano, Matt Littlewood on the sax, Mishiko M’Ba on bass, Ramjee Chandran on guitar and Suresh Bascara on drums.

By Ashok Gulati on December 07 2012 7.14am

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