Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna

Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna: Vocal

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Elongated vocalizations, expansive wanderings, and a thinly veiled air of solemnity greet the listener on Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna: Vocal. With boundless patience, the celebrated South Indian vocalist slowly delineates the melodic form of "Raga Lathangi." In its introductory section, known as an Alapana, Balamuralikrishna's free improvisations are tenderly accompanied by Mysore Nagarajan on violin. As Balamuralikrishna finishes the Alapana, he moves into the raga's Kriti, the most prevalent of forms in the Carnatic style. Anchored in the eight beats of Adital, Balamuralikrishna improvises again, this time playing more and more with dynamics and rhythmic motifs. At this point in the raga, about 20 minutes into the CD, Balamuralikrishna is joined by Zakir Hussain on tabla and T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram on the ghatam, or clay pot. This eminent percussion duo also collaborated with John McLaughlin and Shankar in the band Shakti. In this live performance, both musicians draw lucid tones from their instruments and execute complex rhythmic cadences with mind-boggling synchronicity. Following the hourlong "Kriti in Raga Lathangi," Balamuralikrishna comments upon the joy of playing with his accompanists and celebrates what he sees as the universal nature of music. It is a fittingly upbeat series of comments for the light, end-of-concert piece that follows: "Tillana in Ragamalika." Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna -- who holds a handful of doctorates -- effortlessly swings between the staid and the ecstatic on this release. His keen sense of phrasing and good taste in choosing accompanists contribute in making this a first-rate CD.

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