In traditional Indian music, many instrumentalists avoid what jazz musicians refer to as "doubling" -- that is, playing a second instrument for the public. Jazz great John Coltrane, for example, was primarily a tenor saxophonist but was a doubler in that he played the soprano sax as a second instrument. But in Indian circles, doubling is often avoided -- many sitar players stick to the sitar, and many people who have mastered the vina (a string instrument from South India) would never play anything else on their albums. One exception is Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, who has played the vina on most of his releases but sticks to the sitar on this 1967 date (which the Swedish Amigo label reissued on CD in 2001). Produced by Bengt Berger (a well-known jazz drummer in Sweden) and Leif Ljungberg, Raga Mishra Bhairavi is, according to Amigo, the only known recording of Dagar playing the sitar -- and he plays it with a lot of feeling. Dagar brings as much emotion to the sitar as he brings to the vina, and hearing him stretch out on the sitar is a rare treat (much like bebop alto sax innovator Charlie Parker playing the tenor in 1947). Joined by K. Sridhar on tamboura, Dagar uses the sitar to provide an extended two-part raga that lasts about 45 minutes and is titled "Raga Mishra Bhairavi." When the hypnotic raga was originally released on LP in the '60s, the two parts were heard on different sides of the LP. But on CD, "Raga Mishra Bhairavi" is heard as an uninterrupted 45-minute performance -- listeners don't have to get up and turn the record over after the first part. For Indian music lovers, this CD is something to savor.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson