MPS Rec./Promising Music Irene Schweizer/Barney Willen/Manfred Schoof : Jazz meets India (D/IND,1967)***°'
MPS was one of these German labels, the first of a few more which in this case under the wing of BASF were tax-free promotional labels which didn't have to make money and therefore had all the freedom to release whatever the label responsible, which was Joachim Ernst Berendt, wanted which meant different sorts of jazz with side filling tracks.
Because Mani Neumeier had studied a few years with tablaist Dewan Motihar, student of Ravi Shankar, he asked him if he knew indian musicians to work with for this “jazz meets India” idea. Mani not only brought his band, the Irène Schweizer Trio with him, but also trumpeter Manfred Schoof and sax player Barney Willen. The Indian band consisted of Keshav Sathe (later mostly known for his work with Miles Davis), sitar player Dewan Motihar and Kusum Thakur on tambura.
The first track basically remains founded on the Indian raga completely, slowly incorporating a drum solo too, becoming wilder in details on piano, without outbalancing the rhythm and range, keeping the foundation on chords and rhythm from the raga. Also the two brass players improvise a bit on the theme, with a restrained wildness, a feeling of free jazz freedom without crossing the line of restrictions. This mixes into the next track, “Yaad”. (On the remastered CD they could keep this within one tracking without mixing in or out). Slow moody sax and bowed double bass add extra harmony to it. This double bass starts to describe its free grounding for the next, near 15 minute track. Piano and sitar with tampura improvise and build the track further on, until tabla/sitar/piano lead the fusion raga, more drum solos and sax freedom, with a more jazz lead in them, with an openness to bridge Indian ideas instead of the other way around, which makes this a renewing track with convincing energy, and with most ground in western jazz.
The black CD with mini-doublefold LP package is a 24bit remastering of the original tapes. Included is a thick booklet with background info and rare photographs.
PS. the second generation of such free to do what they want labels like Pilz released the cosmo-krautrock albums, a different sort of structured innovative improvisation. People like Uli Trepte and Mani Neumeier later would also be part of this second generation of adventures with the bands Guru Guru and the Uli Trepe band.