L. Subramaniam

Indian Express/Mani & Co.

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The CD reissue of the two albums Indian-born electric violinist L. Subramaniam first released in 1984 and 1986, Indian Express/Mani & Co., is noodley jazz fusion of little discernible Indian character, despite song titles like "Memories of Jaffna." Noodley jazz fusion is not, in and of itself, not a bad thing, and these albums involve the participation of some true masters of the form; for example, guitarist Larry Coryell provides a truly remarkable, fleet-fingered solo on "Indian Express," and Hubert Laws, Stanley Clarke, and Tony Williams provide accompaniment throughout. The problem is that on both albums, L. Subramaniam's remarkable violin work, able to fuse South Asian and Western musical forms while cheapening neither, is used sparingly at best. There's so much in the way of Velveeta-smooth guitars and MIDI-linked keyboards that most of the time, L. Subramaniam seems like a sideman on his own album. He's the producer, not to mention the songwriter on all but one track (ironically, the best one, the bossa nova-flavored "Breeze"), so there's no one else to blame, but taken together, these albums are a career low.

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