“My focus with the Collective for the past five years is to fuse music from my South Asian heritage…with music from my Western upbringing.” So writes drummer Sunny Jain about his band and his music. It is a quick and easy way to describe exactly what he does. Jain’s music isn’t nearly as heady or rhythmically adventurous as the music of Rudresh Mahanthappa or Vijay Iyer—to name two other young musicians drawing critical attention for blending jazz with their South Asian musical heritage. What Jain does offer is more modest in its aims: a friendly, concise, postbop and pop-jazz program tricked out with elements of Indian pop and classical music.
Singing on five of nine tracks, vocalist Samita Sinha nearly takes over the recording, covering all sorts of material from adapted Bollywood numbers (“Awaara Hoon”) to fey pop filled with multitracked vocals (“Wo Xiang Ni”). When the band isn’t supporting Sinah, however, they incorporate Indian melodies into a loose, dreamy postbop. Guitarist Rez Abbasi fools around with something called a sitar-guitar here and there, but otherwise plays in a floating, twangy post-Abercrombie style. Jain himself can be an aggressive timekeeper, but he likes his melodies sweet and airy. It makes for a nice contrast, especially on the final tune, “Lazaro.”