UNK Album Plays In 100 US Radio Stations

UNK in action

UNK in action

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By Arjun Varma

This distinctive jazz album from Bangalore based UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble has received accolade from the press and importantly, from peers of repute.

It is of no mean significance that an Indian jazz album should find popularity among hard-core jazz radio stations across the USA.

Over 100 radio stations across the States are currently playing tracks from the album. In several stations, the album has been listed as enjoying the Top 5, Top 10 and even #1 in some cases. This naturally makes Thomas extremely delighted. “It feels great to get this recognition. I’m now looking forward to the second album, which is well underway. The band had never been tighter. We’re also gigging a bit.”

Created and recorded in Bangalore’I Only Have Eyes For You’ (‘Eyes’) features a combination of original compositions and reinterpretations of jazz standards in a manner that is completely unique.

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According to US-based music publicist Lisa Reedy, UNK’s ‘Eyes’ is the first jazz album from India being played as widely across the US. Speaking to Explocity, other radio station owners echoed this sentiment. (Read interviews.)

This distinctive jazz album has received accolade from the press and importantly, from peers of repute. For instance, Ron McClure, best known as the bass player for the all-time famous band, Blood, Sweat and Tears said, “Provocative! Contempo to the max! You may have a hit on your hands! Wow! (The album) sounds so good! Really inventive stuff, with a lot of expression.”
Steve Gorn, American jazz flute player, “Radha – ‘Eyes’ is great! Loved your voice and the arrangements.”

Indian pop star Lucky Ali, long-time friend of Thomas said, “Eyes’ is stylish and cool… (smiley) That’s what its about. It comes across as I listen to the tracks (smiley).”

You can listen to the album here: http://www.reverbnation.com/unktheradhathomasensemble.

Thomas started out as the vocalist of a rock band called Human Bondage, popular in the late 70s and later moved on to perform at various jazz festivals across the world. She lived in New York for 20 years where she performed with celebrated jazz musicians including John Scofield, Michael Brecker, Alex Blake and Ryo Kawasaki among others. She has performed in some of New York’s most famous venues including Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Alice Tully Hall and others. Radha Thomas is a trained Dhrupad singer. Her inimitable style of incorporating cadenced nuances of Indian classical music with the dramatically different western jazz sets her apart as a unique artist.

On ‘Eyes,’ Thomas teamed up with pianist Aman Mahajan – a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Boston. Mahajan said, “It’s a great feeling, we worked really hard on this album and feels amazing to know that it’s being appreciated on such a huge level. This form of fusion music is something very new and innovative that we have attempted and having people accept it with so much love is a wonderful thing.”

The album has been getting excellent reviews both in India and abroad.
Michele-Wilson Morris of The Entertainment Bank says, “Oh, you will certainly want to follow this group. I’m highly recommending the Radha Thomas Ensemble and giving them 5 Stars for having a fresher sound for the jazz fans who are seeking to expand their horizons. Listeners will be impressed with their approach to jazz classics like Bluesette, Almost Like Being In Love and Watermelon Man. This is a refreshingly innovative jazz album!”

Maria Miaoulis of TheCelebrityCafe.com is unapologetic: “Thomas herself steals the spotlight with her sultry, smoky vocals. There’s a teasing, seductive quality to her voice that’s just absolutely hypnotizing. She holds your attention from start to finish, the rich timbre of her scats and effects putting you under a spell that you never want to break.”

INTERVIEW
Lisa Reedy, Music publicist, http://www.jazzpromotions.com, Reno, Nevada handles several jazz artists.

Q: How did you like the music personally?
A: I loved UNK’s music. It was such a refreshing and innovative take on jazz.

Q: We know the music is essentially jazz, but would you define it more narrowly? How?
A: I would define UNK’s music on this particular album as jazz / world fusion / pop. It’s one of the hippest groups out there and they definitely make jazz cool.

Q: Which song in the album was your favourite? And was there a moment for you on the album?
A: I loved them all, but Watermelon Man is my favourite because it is such a cool version of the song. It is so different from the original, which is also wonderful, but I love what UNK did with it. They also have a great video of Watermelon Man.

INTERVIEW
STeve Kinder, Classic Voices Classic Jazz, http://www.classicvoices.net, Chicago

Steve Kinder lives in Chicago and operates the Internet based jazz radio station, Classic Voices Classic Jazz The station is hosted on the live365.com network and is enjoyed by listeners in over 30 countries.

Q: Do you know of any other successful Indian jazz bands in the US?
A: I don’t know any other Indian jazz bands here in the US. That’s one reason I liked UNK’s music so much the first time I heard it. I had no idea there was a jazz scene in India, and it is always exciting to hear a new sound from other countries.

Q: How did you like the music personally?
A: I loved UNK’s music the first time I heard it. The first time I listened, it was one of those, “whoa, this is pretty great stuff” moments.

Q: We know the music is essentially jazz, but would you define it more narrowly? How?
A: I’m not sure how I would define the music other than jazz. I’m not a big fan of labelling music. To me good music is good music, regardless of how someone labels it.

Q: Which song in the album was your favourite? And was there a moment for you on the album?
A: My favourite song on the album is ‘Almost Like Being In Love’. That was the first cut we played from the album. It’s a very good version of that song.

Q: How do you measure the audience listening to the program and what has been the response so far to UNK’s music?
My station is an Internet radio station, so listeners are able to vote via the net on whether or not they like a song as it is played. The songs I played from the album did very well with our listeners. Both cuts that I’ve played from UNK’s album have been very popular with my listeners. They have both been some of the most popular songs I play on the station. I really think that shows that there is a real audience here in the US for jazz from other countries, including India.

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