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Deepak Ram: Steps

The bansuri, an Indian bamboo flute, wasn’t built with jazz in mind, so it’s probably not fair to slight Deepak Ram for the off-key notes he blows in his version of “Giant Steps.” But that doesn’t mean it works, either. Over a tepid Latin rhythm by Vic Juris (guitar), Tony Marino (bass) and Jamey Haddad (drums), Ram’s version of the tricky melody is marred by warbled pitch and notes that cut off when they should sustain. It’s not the best way to begin an album.

Things pick up a bit during “Summertime,” where Ram finds his instrument’s bluesy potential, which continues through “All Blues.” The latter track comes toward the end of the album, after the group has taken a shot at “Naima” and before they wrap up with a generic “My Funny Valentine.” Ram contributes two originals: “Madiba’s Dance”-a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who lead Ram’s nation of origin-and “Blues for Shyam Babu,” which has an interesting take on that style with Indian folk, although the rhythm seems to get sloppy towards the end. Instead of attempting to play standards on his instrument, Ram sounds like he might be more successful with originals that channel inner ideas.

Originally Published