TRIP TO THE PANDIT’S MUSICAL WELL: Indisputably, Ravi Shankar is one of the greatest living musicians on the planet, not to mention the best-known ambassador for classical Indian music, and possibly so-called “world music” more generally. To catch the master in concert is a multi-layered experience, as we share his being “in the moment,” masterfully improvising on timeless Hindustani ragas, while we also pay pilgrimage-style respects to a musician still going strong and virtuosic at age 89.
When Shankar plays with his luminously talented protege and daughter Anoushka at the Arlington on Sunday, it promises to be a high point of UCSB Arts & Lectures’ current 50th-anniversary season. Father and daughter performed in town six years ago, around the time that Anoushka was launching her public career and also when Shankar’s other daughter, Norah Jones, was rising like a meteor in another cultural quarter. In its purest traditional form, Ravi Shankar’s music has remained a sublime constant over the past 60-ish years as culture has wriggled restlessly through myriad changes. Such is the beauty of classical music traditions, east and west.
Thankfully, Santa Barbara is fairly rich in serious Indian musical culture, which we were happily reminded of recently, thanks to UCSB’s presenting organization, Raagmala. Last May, the group brought to campus the remarkable V.M. Bhatt-wizard of the customized Mohan Veena slide guitar. For its fall concert at Girvetz Hall two Saturdays back (a show all too little publicized), Raagmala hosted famed South Indian violinists in the Carnatic style, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, a brother-and-sister team descended from esteemed violinist-father/guru Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. In a long and entrancing concert, the violinists, joined by percussionists Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Shri Tripoonithura Radhakrishna (ghatham), the musicians summoned up a profound treaty with generations-deep tradition and the spirit of spontaneous musicality.
For further Indian music resources, check out the great and long-standing radio program “The India Show,” Saturday afternoons on KCSB (91.9 FM), which mixes up the cultural menu with classical and film music. Bollywood calls, alongside the deities.
FRINGE PRODUCT: At this point, Bill Frisell could settle back on the porch of his sterling reputation as one of America’s favorite thinking person’s guitarists, but he just keeps stirring up fine and fresh new ideas. This year’s models of Frisell “product” add distinctive concepts to the idea bazaar: His album Disfarmer (Nonesuch) is a 26-track set of miniatures based on the beguiling photography of the humble and enigmatic portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer, from Heber Springs, Arkansas. Disfarmer‘s early-20th-century images have turned him into an “outsider” art-world sensation, posthumously. In a vaguely related way, the DVD release of Frisell’s cool complementary scores for Buster Keaton films (Songline) translates into new musical terms the aesthetics of another American enigma, the laconic funnyman Keaton (by a guitar-wielding laconic funnyman guitarist).
In one of the year’s finest albums, Frisell’s Disfarmer-for a quartet featuring fiddler Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel ace Greg Leisz and bassist Viktor Krauss-deftly channels the guitarist/composer’s creative powers and atmospheric ingenuity. Years back, in a related but different art-referential project, Frisell wrote and recorded music for the great German artist Gerhard Richter’s retrospective at SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). Fittingly, that music veered away from Frisell’s more “Americana” flavorings and into more Euro-jazz and semi-classical directions. But America, and her quirkier side roads and sentiments as represented by the Disfarmers and Keatons of the world, is the Frisellian subject at hand this year, to heart-soothing and brain-massaging ends. Makes you proud to be an American.
TO-DOINGS: Offering a good reason to get out of the house on Monday night, the cheekily and tangy named Tales from the Diva’s Den-home to Kathleen Grace, Inga Swearingen, and Kristin Korb-will turn SOhO into a celebration of limber-styled singers who move easily from jazz to folk and pop. The S.L.O.-based Swearingen, for her part, has just released her latest CD, First Rain, a true-blue jazz-folk beauty. (Got e? firstname.lastname@example.org.)