What do you get when you blend jazz, blues, Indian classical music, Latin music, African rhythms and add a dash of hip-hop? You get the Bangalore based band UNK, one of India’s most versatile bands consisting musicians from various parts of the globe.
UNK (The Radha Thomas Ensemble) are – Radha Thomas (Vocals), Aman Mahajan (Keyboards), Ramjee Chandran (Guitars), Matt Littlewood (Saxophones), Mishko M’ba (Bass Guitars) and Suresh Bascara (Drums).
At just a little under 38 minutes, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ is a heady mixture of jazz and Indian; the eight track album consists of four originals, three straight-ahead jazz numbers and one Latin track.
It starts off with ‘Call’, one of the original compositions, which opens with a gentle guitar riff; Thomas’ voice is perfect jazz/blues material, husky but with a lovely smoky feel to it, and the Indian classical parts are a treat for the ears. The saxophone compliments her voice amazingly well too, sounding almost like a flute and highlighting the underlying Carnatic influence.
The next track, ‘Menina Moca’, meaning ‘young girl’ in Portugese, is a romantic number; the lyrics of this Latin jazz track are by Thomas herself. The percussions are pleasantly uplifting, something I would expect to hear around a campfire.
‘Connections’, the second original of the album, gives me the engrossing piano chords I was hoping to hear, which are perfectly blended with the bass and the sax. It’s got a slightly melancholy feel, which is brought forward by the amazing saxophone (kudos to Littlewood).
The third original, ‘Bluesette’, is fun and lively, encouraging a girl not to get depressed because of love. The lyrics impart a positive and hopeful vibe even in the midst of heartbreak.
The bass in ‘Refuge’ is astounding, capturing the desperate nature of the song. And Thomas does it again, flawless Indian classical at the end blending with the sax to prove once again just how culturally diverse yet musically similar the band members are. This would be my pick of the album.
The next track, ‘Almost Like Being In Love’, is another lively track, describing the typical signs of being in love. The hurried yet vivacious lyrics, the peppy beats and the overall jazzy feel make me want to tap my foot and twirl!
Number 7 on the list is the title track; with a strong Indian feel to it, this bluesy song is something straight out of an old English movie. I can almost imagine UNK performing this number in a dimly lit bar with smoke swirling everywhere.
The eighth and last track is ‘Watermelon Man’, a tribute to my favourite fruit, so naturally I love it! But this song with its hip-hop-y feel would cheer up anyone! The lively beats and vocals are a delightful mix, reminding me about the torturous summers and my cravings for watermelons!
UNK consists of seasoned musicians who know what they’re about, so there are no slip-ups or unnecessary embellishments in the album. I can’t stop raving about Thomas’ voice and Littlewood’s sax, they are just too awesome! The album, as a whole, has a lovely bluesy feel to it, and what I love about it is how each and every musician is given a chance to show off their skills, instead of focusing on only the vocalist or the drummer. It’s very evident that the all the artists thoroughly enjoyed working on the songs, and that lends this album its feel-good vibe.