Sketches of IndiaBy HILARY BROWN from DOWN BEAT
BY HILARY BROWN
Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra, Sketches Of India (Stateside Music/SteepleChase Productions)
I’ve always found Indian ragas to be much like their land of origin: majestic, exotic and busy. Each raga is a vast musical tapestry, abounding with striking textures, observable patterns and unique, colorful asides. But to actually piece together this construction? To the untrained ear, it seems impossible, a task reserved for only the most knowledgeable craftsmen. Guitarist Pierre Dørge has certainly become a master artisan in this regard, and his latest undertaking with New Jungle Orchestra, Sketches Of India, explores the mystique of Indian music. By weaving in a fine thread of Western influence and jazz training, he’s made this music accessible to a broad range of listeners. Inspired by his travels though various regions of the country—and an intensive study of their respective musical styles and genres—Dørge’s voyage here is as turbulent as it is diverse. It evokes a combination of India’s natural geography, spiritual awakenings and the harried pace of the country’s congested urban centers. Clarinetist Anders Banke gently guides the ensemble through raga-reminiscent, repetitive phrases and extended scales on “Papanasam Mood,” and trumpeter Gunnar Halle and pianist Irene Becker sidewind through a complex mix on “In The Tiger Cave.” Dørge’s use of Eastern technique on guitar—one of the most fascinating aspects of this excellent disc—is highlighted on “Elephants On The Road,” his account of a taxicab-pachyderm encounter. At several points, Sketches Of India reaches a full-throttle, high-energy apex that mimics the surging flow of New Delhi’s bustling railways and roadways (“Trivandrum Express”). It’s a constant swell of simultaneous, organized and dangerous movement, but the group never falters. And as Dørge observed, accidents are rare.