Katharine Cartwright

A Mumbai of the Mind

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AllMusic Review by

Recorded in Bombay, India in 2000 and in New York City in 2001 but not released until 2004, this unusual tribute to the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti is navigated lovingly and respectfully by the talented team of vocalist Katharine Cartwright and saxophonist Rich Oppenheim, backed by a compelling assortment of Indian percussion. Of the major Beat figures, Ferlinghetti's early writings are among the most accessible and coherent, and in this case, Cartwright articulates his lines with a crisp, clear tone so that every word can be understood easily. Each of the poems is from Ferlinghetti's seminal Coney Island of the Mind, and Oppenheim's lyrical sax intertwines seductively as his Paul Desmond-like sound seems to always hit the mark. The co-leaders take chances, too, by pushing edges and blowing slightly dissonantly. The power of the words leaves a pleasurably disturbing residue and the Indian percussion, including the tabla, mridangam, kanjeera, morsing, and ghatham, imparts a soothing aftertaste. The ambiguity and inherent inconsistencies are something Ferlinghetti would appreciate, and they add to the aura of the recording. There is a professional air due to Cartwright's solid intonation and luculent if somewhat formal delivery. Some might perceive a whiff of stiffness, though it is largely mitigated by Oppenheim's relaxed lines and the dreamy, insistent sounds of Eastern percussion. This is an album to savor, a rare, successful gathering of contrasts. That it works as well as it does is a tribute to the joint vision and persistence of Cartwright and Oppenheim.

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