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  • 11/02/201504/08/2016

The Intuitive Shape of Impermanence: Saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan’s Avataar Suggests Beauty’s Brief Bloom on Petal

When he was in his early 20s, Juno-nominated saxophonist and composer Sundar Viswanathan changed his name. For most of his youth in the Northern Ontario mining town of Sudbury, he had been Sam. Something important shifted as he aged, and he realized he needed to return to the name of his birth.

What began with change of name continues and deepens with Avataar, Viswanathan's project that explores the intersections between Indian classical music and jazz, ambient music and electric...

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04/08/2016, Album Release, "Petal"
11/02/201504/08/2016, The Intuitive Shape of Impermanence: Saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan’s Avataar Suggests Beauty’s Brief Bloom on Petal
Release
04/08/2016
Release
04/08/2016
Release Title
Petal
Release Format
Album
Avataar, composer Viswanathan's project, explores the intersections between Indian classical music and jazz, ambient music and electric experiments. Substantial and technically astounding, Petal is a dynamic anthem dedicated to life’s brevity and intensity, merging Western and South Asian structures and sounds. MORE» More»

When he was in his early 20s, Juno-nominated saxophonist and composer Sundar Viswanathan changed his name. For most of his youth in the Northern Ontario mining town of Sudbury, he had been Sam. Something important shifted as he aged, and he realized he needed to return to the name of his birth.

What began with change of name continues and deepens with Avataar, Viswanathan's project that explores the intersections between Indian classical music and jazz, ambient music and electric experiments. Glittering and atmospheric, yet substantial and technically astounding, Petal is a dynamic anthem dedicated to life’s brevity and intensity, merging Western and South Asian structures and sounds with bright grace.

The explicitly Indian elements—the ace tabla of Ravi Naimpally, the Indian classical vocals on “Raudra”—meld with jazz structures and harmony. Ragas inspire some of the melodic ideas, but Viswanathan leaps in his own directions, feeling his way step by step, supported by an ensemble of top Toronto jazz players.

“I write very intuitively. I’ll hear a simple melody in my head, then sing into a tape recorder, expand it on the piano,” explains Viswanathan. “I think cinematically, in big pictures, in landscapes. I feel out the nuances and colors, in a way that’s really distinct from more academic practice.”

"If being a great artist means having the ability to convey one's inner most spirit and identity, then Sundar is that artist. His music flows in and out of myriad places, cultures and styles yet gives the listener a tangible whole to bask in - a task that requires a lot of grace!" --Rez Abbasi

{full story below}

Viswanathan has both academic credentials and serious jazz chops. He’s played with big names like Dave Holland and Wynton Marsalis and with recent trailblazers like Vijay Iyer and Rez Abassi, and recorded albums that hit hard bop and vocal standards with delightful ease. Yet Viswanathan had other sides to his music waiting to unfold.

Growing up as one of very few visible immigrants in a working-class town, music was a refuge, a way for an introverted young man to map out his inner world. This inner world expanded as he pursued advanced musical degrees and eventually bumped up against Viswanathan’s various heritages that bridged East and West. After taking several conservatory courses in non-Western music, from North Indian classical to Turkish maquam, “it seeped into my writing,” he recalls. “I had to transcribe flute and sitar improvisations as part of class assignments. The vocabulary got into the language of my own writing. Eventually, I struck a balance between melody and structure that felt right.”Unlike Viswanathan’s more firmly jazz-oriented recordings, Petal feels like a tender reckoning with multiple influences, guided by a sense of life’s transient pleasures and sorrows. This statement is explicit in the closing track (“Petal (ephemerata)”), as voices from a wide range of wisdom traditions speak, yet it informs the album as a whole: “Agra” was inspired by the construction of the Taj Mahal, built by a Mughal shah as a palace, and then a tomb for his beloved, while “Banda Aceh” is an homage to the city and its residents lost to the tsunami, with subtle hints of gamelan-inspired tonalities and rhythms.

Another guiding force: the group of players and singers Viswanathan has gathered over the years. The crystal clarity of Felicity William’s vocals often double Viswanathan’s horn, while guitarist Michael Occhipinti darts through the subtly interlocking rhythm section (Justin Gray on bass, Giampaolo Scatozza on drums).

Though investigating and grappling with life’s transience has its moments of outrage and intensity, as “Raudra” and “Ishwar” attest, a spirit of peace making, of coming to terms, permeates the album. “The Long Dream” springs from a raga with a distinct emotional color. “The ras, the flavor of the raga, is tranquility,” Viswanathan explains. “It was written in some long meters, in 10. The whole piece is really a big drone. One open sound. It was about the tranquil quality, that emotional connection to peace.”

Yet tranquility isn’t soothing or simplistic, just as finding balance isn’t some blithe exercise in pastiche. Viswanathan has created his own, idiosyncratic hybrid, but it serves a purpose. Like a finger pointing at the moon, Petal hints at what lies beyond our everyday struggles, our passing emotions, our shifting names. “I want my music to be otherworldly. My belief is that if the music transcends, more people get it, even if they don’t get it right away,” muses Viswanathan. “I hope that I can touch something as an artist that people who are not artists might not be able to touch easily. The right music is not coming out if I’m not being honest with myself.”

Release
04/08/2016

03/30/2016, Toronto, ON, Petal CD Release - Lula Lounge, 7:30 PM
02/01/201603/30/2016, The Intuitive Shape of Impermanence: Saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan’s Avataar Suggests Beauty’s Brief Bloom on Petal
Event
03/30/2016
Event
03/30/2016
Doors Open
6:30 PM
Concert Start Time
7:30 PM
Venue
Petal CD Release - Lula Lounge
Venue St. Address
1585 Dundas St West
Venue City, State
Toronto, ON
Venue Zip
M6J 1T9, Canada
Ticket Price(s)
$20.00 - $25.00
Ticket Phone
416-588-0307
Ticket URL
http://www.opentable.com/lula-lounge-reservations-toronto?rid=75154&restref=75154&m=0&t=single&p=2&d=03/30/16%2006:30:00%20PM&rtype=ism_mod
Avataar, composer Viswanathan's project, explores the intersections between Indian classical music and jazz, ambient music and electric experiments. Substantial and technically astounding, Petal is a dynamic anthem dedicated to life’s brevity and intensity, merging Western and South Asian structures and sounds. MORE» More»

When he was in his early 20s, Juno-nominated saxophonist and composer Sundar Viswanathan changed his name. For most of his youth in the Northern Ontario mining town of Sudbury, he had been Sam. Something important shifted as he aged, and he realized he needed to return to the name of his birth.

What began with change of name continues and deepens with Avataar, Viswanathan's project that explores the intersections between Indian classical music and jazz, ambient music and electric experiments. Glittering and atmospheric, yet substantial and technically astounding, Petal is a dynamic anthem dedicated to life’s brevity and intensity, merging Western and South Asian structures and sounds with bright grace.

The explicitly Indian elements—the ace tabla of Ravi Naimpally, the Indian classical vocals on “Raudra”—meld with jazz structures and harmony. Ragas inspire some of the melodic ideas, but Viswanathan leaps in his own directions, feeling his way step by step, supported by an ensemble of top Toronto jazz players.

“I write very intuitively. I’ll hear a simple melody in my head, then sing into a tape recorder, expand it on the piano,” explains Viswanathan. “I think cinematically, in big pictures, in landscapes. I feel out the nuances and colors, in a way that’s really distinct from more academic practice.”

"If being a great artist means having the ability to convey one's inner most spirit and identity, then Sundar is that artist. His music flows in and out of myriad places, cultures and styles yet gives the listener a tangible whole to bask in - a task that requires a lot of grace!" --Rez Abbasi

{full story below}

Viswanathan has both academic credentials and serious jazz chops. He’s played with big names like Dave Holland and Wynton Marsalis and with recent trailblazers like Vijay Iyer and Rez Abassi, and recorded albums that hit hard bop and vocal standards with delightful ease. Yet Viswanathan had other sides to his music waiting to unfold.

Growing up as one of very few visible immigrants in a working-class town, music was a refuge, a way for an introverted young man to map out his inner world. This inner world expanded as he pursued advanced musical degrees and eventually bumped up against Viswanathan’s various heritages that bridged East and West. After taking several conservatory courses in non-Western music, from North Indian classical to Turkish maquam, “it seeped into my writing,” he recalls. “I had to transcribe flute and sitar improvisations as part of class assignments. The vocabulary got into the language of my own writing. Eventually, I struck a balance between melody and structure that felt right.”Unlike Viswanathan’s more firmly jazz-oriented recordings, Petal feels like a tender reckoning with multiple influences, guided by a sense of life’s transient pleasures and sorrows. This statement is explicit in the closing track (“Petal (ephemerata)”), as voices from a wide range of wisdom traditions speak, yet it informs the album as a whole: “Agra” was inspired by the construction of the Taj Mahal, built by a Mughal shah as a palace, and then a tomb for his beloved, while “Banda Aceh” is an homage to the city and its residents lost to the tsunami, with subtle hints of gamelan-inspired tonalities and rhythms.

Another guiding force: the group of players and singers Viswanathan has gathered over the years. The crystal clarity of Felicity William’s vocals often double Viswanathan’s horn, while guitarist Michael Occhipinti darts through the subtly interlocking rhythm section (Justin Gray on bass, Giampaolo Scatozza on drums).

Though investigating and grappling with life’s transience has its moments of outrage and intensity, as “Raudra” and “Ishwar” attest, a spirit of peace making, of coming to terms, permeates the album. “The Long Dream” springs from a raga with a distinct emotional color. “The ras, the flavor of the raga, is tranquility,” Viswanathan explains. “It was written in some long meters, in 10. The whole piece is really a big drone. One open sound. It was about the tranquil quality, that emotional connection to peace.”

Yet tranquility isn’t soothing or simplistic, just as finding balance isn’t some blithe exercise in pastiche. Viswanathan has created his own, idiosyncratic hybrid, but it serves a purpose. Like a finger pointing at the moon, Petal hints at what lies beyond our everyday struggles, our passing emotions, our shifting names. “I want my music to be otherworldly. My belief is that if the music transcends, more people get it, even if they don’t get it right away,” muses Viswanathan. “I hope that I can touch something as an artist that people who are not artists might not be able to touch easily. The right music is not coming out if I’m not being honest with myself.”

Event
03/30/2016