The Upshhot: A cross-cultural musical statement as well as an album of non-stop party vibes.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Dhol player/drummer Sunny Jain has an impressive resumé, including stints with everyone from Martha Wainwright and Peter Gabriel to Kenny Barron and Grupo Fantasma. Red Baraat, however, is his baby, a bhangra/jazz/rock explosion of horns and percussion. The ensemble’s fourth album, Bhangra Pirates, rarely lets up on its Punjabi groove, Jain and his fellow bangers keeping the rhythms percolating under the multiple horn players.
The blowers solo with jazzy abandon when they’re not riffing like a swing band from Pakistan, while Jain and company beat every surface of their instruments to keep the groove dominant. That makes “Horizon Line,” “Bhangale” and a dizzying cover of Daler Mehndi’s already delirious “Tunak Tunak Tun” good for both irresistible dancing and chin-scratching contemplation of the musicians’ obvious skills. Rock asserts itself on “Gaadi of Truth,” Jonathan Goldberger’s burning guitar solo and power chords adding a Western element without taking anything away from the Bhangra dominance, while the appropriately-titled “Layers” incorporates big band-like arrangements for interweaving horn lines. Best of all may be “Rang Barse,” which features soprano saxist Jonathon Haffner killing it over a hip-shaking rhythm that would make James Brown proud.
Whether you hear it as a cross-cultural musical statement or an album of non-stop party vibes, Bhangra Pirates deserves repeat spins.
DOWNLOAD: “Rang Barse,” “Bhangale,” “Gaadi of Truth”