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03/03/11

Erie Times-News, John Chacona (March 4, 2011)

Indian music has been more or less on the American map since the Beatles' sitar-tinged "Within You Without You" and "Norwegian Wood." Saxophonist John Coltrane explored Indian scales and improvising techniques in the '60s.

However, the musical influence of that massive and populous subcontinent -- especially on jazz -- has never been greater than at this moment.

Could this year be Ravish Momin's time? He's the drummer in Trio Tarana, which plays a free concert at the Erie Art Museum's Multipurpose Room on Friday at 8 p.m.

"All of us had had such different musical backgrounds, and there are so many different strains of what's happening," Momin demurred. "Certainly having Vijay and Rudresh, but also Sunny Jain, Res (Abbassi) out there and being so wildly successful is inspiring. Wanting to express my identity is what keeps me going."

That musical identity is fluid. The Trio Tarana that Momin will bring to Erie includes violinist Skye Steele and cellist Greg Heffernan.

"Sometimes it's a duo, sometimes it's a trio," Momin said. "The personnel rotates but I'm always looking for new sounds, new identities and new challenges. You might see me with a trumpet and kora, or accordion or whatever. It's kind of open."

Momin came to music relatively late, as an 18-year-old in civil engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He later studied with the master drummer Andrew Cyrille, who took the novel approach of broadening Momin's existing rhythmic language rather than imposing an existing jazz tradition on the young drummer.

No wonder a sense of exploration and musical space is a hallmark of Trio Tarana's flowing but adventurous music. With two melody instruments and no harmony instruments, the trio, perhaps coincidentally, recalls Indian music. To this open, organic palette Momin has added sounds produced by laptop computers.

"It's about exploring the technologies available to me, and it comes from listening to a lot of electronica and hip-hop where, I dare say, it is more avant-garde, chance-taking and much more sonically rich," he says.

Laptops are showing up on more bandstands these days, mostly to add texture and unusual sounds to improvising ensembles, but Momin is after something different.

"In improvising, no one has used them in a really integrated way in long-form works where they are really part of a compositional strategy nor in time signatures, like 13," Momin says. "There is this whole universe to explore."

 

-- John Chacona