John Handy & Ali Akbar Khan: Ganesha's Jubilee Dance


Ganesha's Jubilee Dance


John Handy (alto sax) and Ali Akbar Khan (sarod)


Two Originals: Karuna Supreme/Rainbow (MPS 519195-2)

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John Handy (alto sax), Ali Akbar Khan (sarod),

Zakir Hussain (tabla), Yogish S. Sahota (tambura)


Composed by Ali Akbar Khan & John Handy


Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany, November 1, 1975


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

The two albums recorded by John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan, Karuna Supreme (1975) and Rainbow (1980), are among the most successful fusions of jazz and Indian raga forms. Handy and Khan had been playing together periodically for several years before their first recording, which may help to explain Handy's relaxed and assured ability to adjust to the non-Western harmonic concepts, rhythms and tonalities of this challenging music, while still maintaining his individuality.

The 9-minute "Ganesha's Jubilee Dance," from Karuna Supreme, is inspired by Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who is the son of Shiva, the god of music, and is based on the raga called "Jhinjoti," meaning "vibrate your body." The joyful, skipping theme is played by Handy, who then soars into his first solo already in full flight. His distinctly boppish lines contrast with more Eastern-sounding tonal effects. After reasserting the theme, Khan solos, his nimble fingers creating delicate yet emphatic structures. Handy again states the theme, and his second improvisation then ventures into the upper register with a pinched timbre, before swooping down to the lower depths of his horn. From there, he repeats mesmerizing rhythmic patterns and finally adopts the complex rhythms being laid down by Hussain's tabla. Khan next delivers a more intense solo than his first, his phrasing more jazz-like in both nature and spirit. He and Hussain reach a stirring dual climax. Handy again mimics the tabla's beats in his closing statement, which includes some additional ecstatic runs. The theme is restated to satisfyingly complete the cycle.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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