Twenty-three-year-old percussionist Barshay has played with Herbie Hancock’s Quartet since 2003, and more recently with the Klezmatics, and is a longtime member of the Latin-jazz group Latin Flavor, which tours for the U.S. State Department. On top of all this, he has studied Indian tabla drumming, and used to have a group with saxophonist Daniel Blake called Tabla Underground. It’s no surprise then that with his exposure to contemporary jazz, as well as Afro-Caribbean, traditional Jewish and North Indian musics, his drum set merges standard Western drums with tabla, kanjira, pakhawaj, congas, timbal, cajón, shekere, shakers, bells and clave.
Recorded in 2004 and 2005, but only released this year, Barshay’s debut CD blends all his influences in a heady, fascinating and enjoyable way. On the title tune, guest Herbie Hancock (on synthesizer and piano) offers sprays and solo bursts behind Daniel Blake’s bluesy tenor, over melodic and rhythmic patterns remindful of “Freedom Jazz Dance” by Eddie Harris. Jorge Roeder’s bass lays the hypnotic foundation. “Peacock” sounds like something out of Weather Report, with Blake’s swirling Shorter-like soprano solo, Barshay and Roeder laying down Indian rhythms mixed with 6/8 Afro-Cuban, and vocalized Indian syllables or tukras. “Return Voyage” features the tambura drone sound with Josh Feinberg’s sitar. Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle” places Blake’s nimble soprano over a tabla and conga background, again using tukra rhythms. “The Last Gasp” is straightahead progressive jazz, while “Clouds” highlights the stimulating interaction of Hancock and Blake, spiked by Barshay’s tabla.
“Sim Shalom/Prayer for Peace” is based on a bulgar klezmer rhythm, alternating between tabla and kanjira, a South Indian drum. Clarinet, accordion and voice enhance the Jewish folk flavoring. “Rucutucupla” is an absorbing duet between Barshay and percussionist Reinaldo de Jesus, combining Indian tihai and Latin rhythms. The final track, “Solo Live,” is a separate “bonus track,” a seven-minute Barshay solo recorded live, during which he fervently explores the many instruments and rhythms at his beck and call.