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MP3 Marc Rossi Group - Hidden Mandala

Progressive jazz, with Indian, Latin, and world influences.

8 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Progressive Jazz, JAZZ: World Fusion

Hidden Mandala
liner notes | band member bios | quotes

CD liner notes, by Fred Bouchard

The mandala spins and our world turns with it… As a map of one’s internal universe, the mandala represents the cosmos from a personalized human perspective. Over two weeks I’ve listened to tracks of Hidden Mandala, back and forth interleaved with several mainstream small-band jazz offerings, and find its messages and contexts far more uplifting and exuberant than most. Rossi’s vibrant musical textures swirl and surge with canny delight; his variegated pieces, shot through with surprise twists, arching melodies, and exciting polyrhythms, challenge the mind and surprise the ear at every turn. Marc’s eastern interests blossomed from childhood exposure to flamenco guitars and broaden through duos with sitar, veena, tabla, and North and South Indian groups.

Rossi’s refinement of a distinctive voice as composer and player is due in part to having absorbed much from his major influences. From Jimmy Giuffre, he draws exquisite delicacy of taste and gentle humor. From George Russell, a robust and overarching system, hamonic daring, and a keen cultural balance. From Indian influences (like Geetha Bennett, Peter Row) a transcendent spirituality, overtones of reverberant nirvana, and deep inward focus. From Stan Strickland’s Ascension, bold blues and R&B, and the easy joie de vivre of dance clubs. As for achieving orchestration in a nutshell, it’s hard to imagine that the rich panoply of voices herein never exceeds five musicians (with almost no overdubs, except occasional doubling of Geetha’s voice, Lance’s multi-layered flutes on the title track, and MIDI sweetening on Marc’s acoustic piano.)

Having explored and expanded his gift of musical tongues, Rossi seeks the kernel of clarity amid complexity -- the center of the mandala. His widened visions encompass unusual and effective fusions of western and eastern forms and scales. Echoes of call and response (basic to black blues and indeed all world music) resonate between tracks on these CDs and Rossi’s musical history, as this current group reunites members of 1997’s We Must Continue and invites in perfectly unique guests to this fresh, celebratory collaboration. Listen and enjoy!

Blues for Frank and Geetha: This piece dates from 1981, Rossi’s student days with George Russell and Jimmy Giuffre at New England Conservatory; Marc’s dedicatees “are friends who have inspired me so much over the years.” This long-limbed blues juxtaposes lyrical line with driving beat, its Indian-inspired modal / chromatic melody moving into straight-up jazz chorus. Lance’s barreling tenor rides forward, leading to Marc’s grand piano which dances happily between McCoy Tyner and Don Pullen. Voices join and arc in free improvisation -- Geetha slightly to the fore – before a heads-up out-chorus and reeling coda. It’s canny fusions like this that set Rossi apart from his peers: this trip from Pondicherry to Greenwich Village makes a swirling fugal time-warp sweep into Medieval France!

Hidden Mandala Intro: All piano here: Marc’s brief fantasia with flamenco touches freely associates the two main raga modes of “Hidden Mandala”, introduces a harmonic progression from “Refuge in the Rhythm” (CD 2). The solo expands on these ideas to foreshadow unity on many levels, ending with a set of chromatically ascending chords. Marc says: “I had a general idea of where I was going with it, but left lots of space for improvisation.”

Fatwa in Carbondale: Here Lance’s flute jauntily states a lyrical-chromatic melody (inspired by George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept) over an Afro-Cuban groove with bass-clarinet [low winds] synth textures. The B section is a hypnotic call and response with octave-leap repeats. The Coltranesque montuno, in 2/3 son clavé, has lively solos -- ebullient Lance, rousing Marc, and Bill’s snappy vamps and smooth chorus. Check out Mauricio’s hot solo, while playing the clavé pattern with his foot! The tongue-in-cheek title was inspired by the idea that an American-born Sufi leader Sheik Din Dayeni (aka Dean Greenberg) “whose spiritual precepts I admire, might issue a fatwa [stern religious edict] to his community.”

Hidden Mandala: This 7/4 piece combines Indian tala cycles and vocals with Latin clavé! Is this a first? Based on two ragas (Yemen and Charu Keshi) in different keys, the piece’s circular form reconnects to itself like a snake or mandala. Geetha’s haunting vocal doubles the melody, and the falling 3-note (minor/major) vamp thickens dramatically at climaxes, powered by Bill’s nimble parsing of the metrical shifts. Marc: “The ‘hidden’ aspect of the mandala is a metaphor for the wheel of life: it is ever turning -- offstage, beyond our awareness.” Marc’s delicate and Lance’s lusty/lyrical choruses set up Mauricio’s expansive solo over an Indian 7-beat tala (also limned by Geetha) he plays in Latin clavé with his foot! The solo ends with a South Indian korvai, orchestrated differently and expanded harmonically on its three repetitions.

Voices Of 1000 Intro: This alap-like section is based on South Indian Bhairavi ragam, and uses the traditional tamboura drone. As the canon opens with soprano sax, piano, and bass, phrases rise in tessatura then descend to shape the piece. Geetha’s lovely alapana improvisations in Bhairavi ragam comment on the composed phrases played by the Western instruments. Originally composed for big band, this small group version has legs, reflecting ahead to CD2.

Free Speech Zone: This fusion socker revels in its in-your-face Afro groove and Indian tehai cadence figure. As the opening vamp moves keenly from Phrygian to Dorian mode, Lance and Bruce play the soaring unison melody in playful rising loops. The bridge’s stop-time exclamations and modal harmonies conjure up Weather Report. Marc’s strong, ascending synth solo leads to Bruce Arnold’s elastic and fluid guitar, whence Marc’s scintillating piano and Lance’s hypnotic soprano lead to the ‘babel’ of
Free Speech Outro, a collective group improvisation serving as coda, a controlled reference to George W. Bush’s insular lunatic geopolitics and unconscionable double-speak.

Bittersweet Five: This subtly nuanced 5/4 melody, based on a traditional North Indian (Rag Bhairavi) sitar raga, is interpreted hauntingly by Prasanna, who superimposes heady South Indian embellishments in both slow and double time sections, with deadly accurate rhythmic phrasing. On the bridge’s counter-melody complementing the original sitar line, Marc’s Fender Rhodes solo bends pitches like shooting stars. An R&B flavored chord progression wraps around the Indian melody for a hip romantic mood.

-– Fred Bouchard, July 20, 2007
Fred writes about music for Downbeat Magazine and All About Jazz.



Marc Rossi’s genre-transcending career and world-embracing compositions led Down Beat to call him “one of the dynamic few whose musical and cultural awareness travels exponentially in many different directions.” A versatile composer, pianist and educator, Rossi treads that fine and rewarding line between teaching and learning; he’s a full Professor of Piano and Jazz Composition at Berklee College of Music, and studies Hindustani and Carnatic music and pursues private study with Frank Bennett, William T. McKinley, Charlie Banacos, Peter Row, and Ben Schwendener. Rossi has lectured in Venice, UCLA, Rome, and conducted NEC ensembles at the request of MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning jazz legends, Ran Blake and George Russell. Of Rossi’s We Must Continue (MMC, 1997) Scott Yanow wrote in LA Jazz Review, “the chance taking explorations have plenty of exciting moments,” and his “complex [originals] always contain some catchy melodies.” Rossi co-led the raga-jazz exploring Row and Rossi Project with sitarist and Peter Row (1995-99), and the Living Geometry duo with pianist Ben Schwendener (1993-present). Rossi served as sideman with Stan Strickland and Ascension, the Jimmy Giuffre 4, Natraj, Robert Moore Quartet, George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra on the Grammy-nominated “The African Game.” Rossi’s classical and jazz compositions were premiered by The Czech Radio Symphony (at Boston Symphony Hall and Dvorak Hall in Prague), the Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra, pianist Jeffrey Jacob, cellist Raphael Popper-Keizer, Arden String Quartet, sitarist Peter Row, Carnatic musicians Lalgudi Krishnan and Durga Krishnan, guitarist Prasanna, cellist Xin-Hua Ma, pianists Cameron Grant and William Merrill, violinist Sharan Leventhal, historian/pianist Lewis Porter, Berklee Faculty Jazz Orchestra.

Lance Van Lenten, saxophonist and flautist, has credits with Gunther Schuller’s “Duke Ellington Ensemble at the Smithsonian,” “Garden Planet” (Teka and Paris). Lance has performed with jazz masters Jaki Byard, Stanton Davis, Anton Fig, Vinny Colaiuta, Alan Pasqua, Bill Frisell, and also with Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Carnatic musicians Lalgudi Krishnan and Durga Krishnan. He performed on the Marc Rossi Group’s acclaimed first CD “We Must Continue.” Marc: “An amazingly creative sax and flute player with a unique voice, Lance covers the gamut of musical expression that my compositions require. He is an integral part of my music, and knows just what to do to make it happen.”
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Bill Urmson’s jazz bass chops and credentials are impeccable: the bassist in George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra (since 1983), worldwide, and Gil Evan’s Monday Night Orchestra at Sweet Basil in Mahattan (1989-91). Bill has toured the US, Europe and Japan with the Living Time and the Gil Evans Orchestras, which included Gil Goldstein, Lew Soloff, Kenny Wheeler, and Andy Sheppard. He has also performed with Carnatic musicians Lalgudi Krishnan and Durga Krishnan. He currently performs with Marc Rossi, Billy Ward, Prasanna, and others. Marc: “Bill is one of my two favorite electric bassists, the other being Anthony Jackson. He’s a colleague from George Russell’s orchestras, and played on my first CD. When Bill said he could do this project, I knew the music would be hip and on point. Bill always lays it down with attitude and intelligence. Check out his impeccable intonation on fretless bass, his solos, and everything else!”Visit https://www.tradebit.com.

Mauricio Zottarelli, drummer, was born in Santos, SP, Brazil. At 14 he was in several São Paulo bands, and in 1999 was awarded a Berklee scholarship. He’s very active performing with the Dig Trio, Marc Rossi Group, Oriente Lopez, Cidinho Teixeira, Claudio Roditi, Hendrik Meurkens among others. Marc: “Mauricio is a rare gem, who understands the complex world rhythmic grooves and textures of my music, but adds his own dancing Brazilian / Latin touches and multidimensional solos. When Mauricio first played my music, it was reborn: now I build ideas around what he might do.” Visit https://www.tradebit.com.

Bruce Arnold needs little introduction, as this guitarist, composer, performer and educator is one of the rare players who effortlessly fuses free improvisation with classical and blues, and maintains a high media profile. Arnold appeared on Bass Player (MTV) with Stanley Clarke, tours with Roberta Piket and Olivier Ker. He has published several books on technique. Marc: “Bruce is a cutting-edge jazz guitarist with whom I share a love for contemporary classical music. He integrates a wide range of expression into his solos, and every time I hear him, he’s improving. I thank Bruce for introducing me to Charlie Banacos, who changed both our lives.” Visit https://www.tradebit.com.

Geetha (Ramanathan) Bennett, accomplished vocal and veena artist, was awarded the prestigious ‘A Top Rank’ for veena by All India Radio/TV; her programs aired on Indian National TV, and radio in India and Singapore. Geetha’s versatility shows in Asian Colors, a concerto composed by husband Frank (also noted percussionist, orchestrator). A prolific author, Geetha has published over 200 plays, novellas, and short stories in the Tamil language. Marc: “Geetha is an amazing veena vidushi (virtuoso) and vocalist, comfortable with jazz and fusion, having gigged and recorded with percussionist Trilok Gurtu and guitarist Andy Summers (The Police!) When Geetha agreed to record with me I knew she’d add new dimensions to my music. She and Frank have been tremendous inspirations to me over 30 years.” Visit https://www.tradebit.com.

Prasanna spans guitar from traditional Indian (Carnatic) to contemporary world fusion. One critic said, “Prasanna plays guitar like nobody on the planet’. Prasanna’s diverse CDs include 12 Carnatic albums, Jimi Hendrix tribute, triple guitar project with Aka Moon, scores for contemporary dance theater. He premiered the original big band version of Rossi’s Jazz Impressions of a Kriti, for Carnatic guitar and jazz orchestra. He’s worked widely with masters of jazz (Larry Coryell, Victor Wooten, Alphonso Johnson) and Indian music (A. R. Rahman, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Trichy Sankaran.) Marc: “When I first met Prasanna, who was studying at Berklee, I knew we’d work together. He was already an accomplished Carnatic player — on electric guitar -- and a rare Indian classical musician who plays Western music well.” He premiered the original big band version of Rossi’s Jazz Impressions of a Kriti, for Carnatic guitar and jazz orchestra (small band version coming on CD2). He’s worked widely with masters of jazz (Larry Coryell, Victor Wooten, Alphonso Johnson) and Indian music (A. R. Rahman, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Trichy Sankaran.) Visit https://www.tradebit.com.



Marc Rossi is equally conversant in European, American, and Indian music traditions. Because he has a genuine love of these styles, it shows in his ability to symbiotically integrate these disciplines. These tracks reflect an ongoing deep commitment to fusing elements from all these musics. Serious listeners will be in for a rewarding experience. – Charlie Banacos, renown jazz educator

Marc''s music reflects the different possibilities of cultural union and integration, and to me, that''s a clear sign of hope for the future." – Danilo Perez, Grammy- winning jazz/Latin pianist

How lucky I am to be the first on my block to hear the two recent albums by the Marc Rossi Group, “Hidden Mandala” and “Jazz Impressions of a Kriti!” As the titles suggest, these are collections of material, which prove that Marc Rossi is not only a ‘citizen of the world’ but a true cultural cosmopolitan. And though he moves with consummate ease between the worlds of American jazz, Carnatic (southern Indian) music, and influences from Latin America and Africa, the real brilliance of Rossi’s music is that when listening to each developing piece one can only say “but of course!” at every surprising turn of harmony, rhythm, timbre and improvisation.

The performers are all top notch. Being a saxophonist, I can vouch for the soulful creativity and technical mastery of Lance Van Lenten. And being an arranger, composer and a ‘wannabe’ pianist, I found myself saying to myself, “I wish I had thought of that!” at almost every phrase of Rossi’s performances. Particularly satisfying and interesting is the use of Geetha Ramanthan Bennett’s Carnatic-tinged vocal contributions. If one will allow the comparison, many of her vocal backgrounds invoked the same expansive and lush feeling that a string section can add to this kind of music. But, in the case of Bennett’s performances, it is almost as if Rossi has conceived a whole new kind of orchestral section.

Among the most reverential terms we have in jazz, indeed, in all music, is the phrase Beyond Category, the oft-used platitude to describe the music of arguably the finest jazz composer in world history, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. These collections of recorded music by the Marc Rossi group are, in my humble opinion, ‘Beyond Category.’ – Brad Dechter, jazz composer and Emmy-nominated arranger

Marc Rossi''s music incorporates an intriguing blend of influences. His "Blues For Frank and Geetha" has the feel of Indian music, his "Fatwa in Carbondale" brings in a Latin element. The title cut, "Hidden Mandala" brings these together in a piece that has a highly complex structure, but that somehow still manages to be lyrical and uplifting.” Marc Rossi brings his own approach to the tradition of George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Gil Evans and other composers.”
– Lewis Porter, noted jazz historian/pianist

Marc Rossi''s original voice as a composer and player finds a hip, potent unity in the different elements that inform it--American Jazz, Euro-classical and Indian music, seen through a life-long multi-cultural lens. The range of expression is rich -- from deep blue and gold silk, to cosmic and transcendent -- and the experience thoroughly beautiful and invigorating.
– Fred Bouchard, jazz writer and critic

People who are interested in Chick Corea Ravi Shankar John McLaughlin should consider this download.
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