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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion

JONAS HELLBORG

By ROBERT KAYE
Published April 19, 2006

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Bardo

Long viewed in the international fusion community as a musician’s musician, bass guitarist/composer Jonas Hellborg continues to reassert himself as a deft instrumentalist and musical pathfinder. Hellborg again teams up with equally talented (and “out-of-the-box”) players: American guitarist Shawn Lane and V. Selvaganesh on kanjeera (tambourine) and konokol, as he did on Good People In Times of Evil.  Delving further into classical Indian music’s nuances of structure and improvisation, to this stirring triumvirate Hellborg invites vocalist V. Umamahesh and percussionist V. Umashankar on ghatam (clay pot) and konokol. Hellborg has always been an iconoclast. Even within the reincarnation of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-’80s his bass playing evinced a wanderlust quality. Icon is by far his most in-depth excursion into the traditional Indian repertoire. Respectful of its profound heritage (and his collaborators’ skills), Hellborg often chooses the minimalist path—albeit when he’s not soloing or laying down some mind-boggling grooves—allowing his band mates to shine. Case in point: the album’s opener, “Anchor.” Almost half of the 15-minute piece is dedicated to Indian percussion syllables (bols) in a rhythmic conversation between Selvaganesh and Umashankar.