Although one might expect that a musical fairytale would begin in a sleepy village in southern India, the story shared by Charlie Mariano and R.A. Ramamani in fact began in southern Germany: to be specific, in Munich in 1980. When the saxophonist from the USA met the composer and singer from India, he had already written plenty of notes that sought to capture the musical impressions he'd received during several study sojourns in India. Ramamani, for her part, was surrounded by Indian divinities and Hindu spirituality. From earliest childhood, she has always known that music means much more than mere virtuosity. Two strong personalities stand face to face in the recordings on "Om Keshav": one individual is convinced that music stands on it's own; the other believes that the soul determines the quality and beauty of the music. Despite these differences of opinion, and thanks to intensive rehearsal work at the Karnataka College of Percussion, each of the pieces could be recorded perfectly on it's first take so that a harmonious and mellifluous album could be created in just four days of concentrated studio work. With the exception of one composition by Charlie Mariano, all of the pieces were composed by Ramamani, whose scores set to music traditional texts from South India. Her music is solemn and sublime, yet thoroughly relaxed. Her voice floats above the plexus of percussion with rich vibrato in the sung lines. And she leaves the virtuosic Mariano all the space he needs to unfurl his gentle and unmistakable playing. The son of Italian immigrants, Charlie Mariano was born Carmine Ugo Mariano in Boston in 1923. He began his career as a jazz saxophonist in the early 1940s in his native city, where he met his wife, the Japanese pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. The musical couple moved first to New York, then to Tokyo. Often referred to as a "wanderer between the worlds," Charlie Mariano commuted back and forth between America and Europe, where he played with nearly all the great names in jazz history, including, for example, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus. While teaching at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, he came into contact with musicians from South India and Malaysia. He traveled to Kuala Lumpur, then returned to Europe and settled in The Hague, where he played in the city's jazz clubs and joined keyboarder Jasper van't Hof to cofound a jazz-rock group called "Pork-Pie." Soon thereafter, Mariano further deepened his relationship to Asia by spending a year in the Indian village of Thiruvarankulum, where he became more closely acquainted with the lifestyle and especially the music of India. Mariano first became aware of R.A. Ramamani and her tremendous talent in 1980, when he heard her perform in Munich with the Karnataka College of Percussion from Bangalore. The internationally renowned master school for South Indian percussion and vocal music had been invited to Munich by "Embryo," one of the Germany's oldest rock bands, with which Charlie Mariano had regularly performed as a guest soloist. At this point in time, the founding of "Jazz Yatra," Ramamani's first band, was warmly received in Bombay. At age five, Ramamani began receiving lessons which would teach her to express the spirituality of her people and pass it on to future generations through the medium of the traditional music of Karnataka. A gifted singer, composer and teacher, R.A. Ramamani is also vice-president of the Karnataka College of Percussion. Her profound knowledge, her improvisational talents and her openness to other kinds of music have carried her to the world's greatest stages: e.g. The Berlin Jazz Festival, the North Sea Festival, Jazz Jambourie, the Octagon Theatre in Perth, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the opera house in Bayreuth, Germany. Two opposites don't just attract one another here: their encounter also leads to the creation of something that's truly wonderful. After previous successful albums such as "Live with The Karnataka College of Percussion" or "Bangalore," today's "Om Keshav" has the qualities of a classic recording that's destined to draw alert listeners under it's spell for many years to come.
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