Seattle saxophonist Neil Welch might not be a name you have previously heard on the jazz scene, but now that he's unleashed Narmada on the world, that might quickly change. Images of John Coltrane's dark, avant-garde phase are heard all throughout Narmada, a powerful, chilling collection of dense 60's styled jazz, led by Welch's commanding sax lines. His tone, his phrasing, and his technique, not to mention his knack for melody, take charge on each and every song here, proof of a young player fully on top of his game. Listen to him snake and sneer his way through the menacing "Madness in Motion", and blast through the mix on "The Search (For Coltrane, Pharoah, and Ayler)", hiding in the shadows just long enough to let Brian Kinsella lay down a smoldering piano solo. Though he's supported by a fine cast here; Kinsella, guitarist Cameron Peace, Luke Bergman on bass, the fine drummer Chris Icasiano, percussionist Tor Dietrichson, and sitar player Pundit Debi Prasad Chatterjee (the latter two who also play with Welch in Nada Brahma), it's Welch who steals the show consistently with his searing, squoking sax. Chatterjee offers up some wild Indian raga on the earthy title track, a tune that ultimately winds up as a smoky jazz number with plenty of bursts from Neil. The band goes for more laid back jazz on the melodic "Paranoid Android", while "Neptune" is a mix of post-bop & free jazz, Icasiano flailing away while Welch lets his sax literally scream. "Darker" again returns to Coltrane-ish territory, and the finale "Raga Kirwani" is again permeated by Chatterjee's intriguing sitar melodies.
Narmada is a must hear for lovers of avant-garde flavored jazz. This is a very solid band, led by a world class sax player who might just be one of the best cats out there right now.
1 Madness in Motion
2 The Search (For Coltrane, Pharoah, and Ayler)
4 Paranoid Android
7 Raga Kirwani