John Handy


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Five years after recording the amazing Karuna Supreme, John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan reconvened for a follow-up. This time out, Shyam Kane performs on tabla in place of Zakir Hussain, and Carnatic violinist L. Subramaniam is added as a soloist. Subramaniam turns in some fine playing, and Shyam Kane does a decent job in support on the tablas, but he lacks the excitement and attentive reactions that Zakir Hussain supplied. The addition of violin instantly changes both the sound and the dynamic, and some of the tracks have them sounding just a bit tentative. Perhaps there was too much deference in the studio, or perhaps the compositions didn't have the same spark, but both the energy and the interaction on this date are at a lower level than Karuna Supreme. "Garland of Flowers" is essentially an improvisation over a drone, with each soloist taking a turn, then playing together for a time. Handy adopts a rougher tone at points, and gets into the upper register toward the end, but even so, the tune seems to lack fire. Only "Indian Boogie Shoes" and "Kali Dance" really capture a similar energy to Karuna Supreme, with inspired playing and tradeoffs by all. This album isn't bad by any stretch, but it's bound to suffer when compared to Karuna Supreme.

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