Saxophonist George Brooks and pianist Utsav Lal create a dynamic new music drawing on the traditions of Indian classical music, American jazz, western classical and contemporary improvisation. Their association began in 2020 just prior to the Covid 19 global shelter, when Brooks brought Lal to California for a concert featuring artists from India and the US. The bond was immediate and deep and despite the challenge of living 3000 miles apart (Brooks in California and Lal in New York) they continued to collaborate and create new music. Their performance at the Mount will be Brooks’ and Lal’s first live performance since the pandemic began.
George Brooks is an award-winning saxophonist and composer, acclaimed for successfully bridging the worlds of jazz and Indian classical music. He is the founder of seminal Indian fusion groups Summit with Zakir Hussain; Bombay Jazz with Ronu Majumdar and Larry Coryell; Raga Bop Trio with Steve Smith and Prasanna;
Kirwani Quartet with Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Elements with Kala Ramnath and Gwyneth Wentink
Brooks has collaborated extensively with American composer Terry Riley and has performed with genre defining artists Etta James, Anthony Braxton, Jaki Byard, Talvin Singh, Kronos Quartet, The Temptations, Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek. He appears regularly at major festivals throughout India, and was a featured soloist on John McLaughlin’s 2008 Grammy nominated “Floating Point” CD.
As a composer, Brooks has received commissions from the American Composers Forum, EnActe Arts, Opera Piccola, Intermusic SF, Arts International, California Jazz Conservatory, USArtists, New Music USA, Real Vocal String Quartet, SFMOMA, Met Life Creative Connections and Gwyneth Wentink who premiered his solo harp composition, “The Alchemy of Happiness” at the 2013 Gaudeamus Muziekweek.
His compositions have been performed by Yo-Yo Ma, members of the Liverpool Philharmonic, and can be heard in the Merchant/Ivory film, “The Mystic Masseur”.
Utsav Lal, is the rarest of pianists. Born and raised in New Delhi, where he trained in Indian classical music with dhrupad vocalist Ustad Wassifudin Dagar, Lal subsequently received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jazz and Western classical music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the New England Conservatory of Music. Lal was named a Young Steinway Artist in 2010 by piano-makers, Steinway & Sons.
Known as the ‘Raga Pianist’, Lal has set a precedent with his innovative handling of Indian Classical music and has garnered an impressive career with solo performances at Carnegie Hall, Southbank Centre-London, Kennedy Center-DC, Steinway Hall NY and extensive collaborative work with Irish, Scottish and Indian musicians. Since his debut album release, ‘Piano Moods of Indian Ragas” (Times Music 2008), Utsav has released six subsequent CDs including a the world’s first solo on the microtonal ‘Fluid Piano’.
Treading the careful line between an ancient tradition and the innate desire for innovation with utmost respect, Utsav Lal’s music is influenced by Indian classical tradition but also gains inspiration from Persian piano tradition, Australian minimalist piano trio – The Necks, and piano innovators like Ran Blake, Anthony Coleman, Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou and Cecil Taylor. Lal has challenged commonly understood ways of improvisation to develop his own unique voice for the piano.
Respected for his versatility, Lal is featured on international collaborations with Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Winifred Horan, Australian Contemporary Circus Theatre CIRCA, Talvin Singh, George Brooks, Miles Okazaki and Rajna Swaminathan. His music has a quiet intensity and is acclaimed for its sincerity and depth.
The Alchemy…is a transformational fusion of Eastern and Western traditions. Brooks soprano work is some of the finest in almost any genre – light, fluid and precise. Ralph Miriello, Notes on Jazz
“The music on this recording has blown me away. Brooks plays the saxophone with a tone ,rhythmic concept and harmonic concept that sounds totally new to my ears. The result is one of the most exciting saxophone records I have ever heard.” Saxophone Journal
“Bristling with east meets west polytonality and rhythmic intrigue and tinged with a Trane-like spirituality… Blowing gorgeous tones and fluidly unravelling complex ideas…(Brooks) succeeds to a startling and almost rapturous degree.” SF Bay Guardian
” A fascinating set…Exotically lyrical…gracefully bridges seemingly antithetical disciplines.” Billboard Magazine, Critics Choice
“Able to play in the tradition of Coltrane and Dexter Gordon one moment and with Terry Riley or Kronos Quartet the next Brooks is fast becoming a leading voice in the realm where jazz and north Indian improvisation meet.” SF Bay Guardian
“Lal continues to blend the improvisational mystique of Indian classical melodies, particularly Dhrupad-influenced raga interpretations, with the compositional framework of the piano” Rolling Stone India