Namaskar, a Sanskrit salutation expressing reverence and respect, is the name of the debut solo recording of gifted drummer and tabla player Sameer Gupta. A member of Marc Cary’s Focus Trio, Gupta has studied with tabla masters Zakir Hussain and Anindo Chatterjee (who appears on the album), and collaborated with Western jazz musicians and Indian artists. The album presents a combination of Indian ragas and thumris (traditional folk songs), originals penned by Gupta and Cary, and a Miles Davis standard. It features both Cary and Focus bassist David Ewell, as well as Ramesh Misra (sārangī), Srinivas Reddy (sitar), Prasant Radhakrishnan (Carnatic sax), David Boyce (horns, electronics) and Charith Premawardanan (viola).
Gupta begins with “Aaye Na Balam,” reworking a thumri composed by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, its (absent) lyrics portraying the pain and yearning of a lover in waiting. Cary’s opening resonating chord establishes the somberness of the composition, and the intricacies of Misra’s sārangī emulate the human voice, expressing a range of emotional hues, predominantly a sense of longing. Three Gupta originals are inspired by the Golden Era of Bollywood, Cary infusing the tunes with a hypnotic, almost psychedelic quality through a textured layering of electric sound.
Cary propels us into the here and now of jazz with his relentlessly driving, haunting “Walk With Me.” Gupta’s arrangement of the Miles Davis classic “Blue in Green,” featuring Chatterjee on tabla and Gupta on drums, is based on a seven-beat chhand cycle. It’s the concluding statement in his imaginative vision of Indian-American musical amalgamation.