Deepak Ram "Steps" CD Reviews
“The world is certainly
becoming smaller as evidenced by all the musical crossovers we hear these
days. On this recording, Deepak Ram takes the ancient Indian bansuri flute
and actually plays jazz on it – and challenging jazz to boot. It’s
incredible to hear Deepak’s sweet, silky sound playing “Giant
Steps,” ”All Blues” and more classics, making the chord
changes with all their half step motion and the like. This is truly a
fusion of musical cultures.” - Dave Liebman
Bansuri Master Deepak Ram Tackles Jazz
Even on the toughest township streets of South Africa, one could always
hear a lively beat and a soulful song. Under apartheid, even music was
segregated. That’s partly how Deepak Ram — who was raised in one
of the townships reserved for people of Indian descent — learned
to play a bamboo flute known as the bansuri. Listen
to the interview…
NPR Interview by Renee Montagne, Morning Edition
- July 8, 2008
It’s quite astonishing to hear a bossa intro--from stalwart guitarist Vic
Juris--and then a slow and stately “Giant Steps”. Ram’s solo
is introspective and thoughtful, not just an exercise in running the changes...Ram's
flute’s silky sound works beautifully.
Donald Elfman, All About Jazz, December 2008
On his latest disc, South African-born jazz musician
Deepak Ram presents us with a solid album and a sonic challenge. …Throughout
Steps Ram shows that in fact there are no limits when it comes to playing
jazz — any instrument works as long as you have the courage, will,
and of course the talent to make it happen, no matter what the intricacies
at hand might be.
Ernest Barteldes, Broward-Palm Beach New Times
- February 21, 2008
While a jazz-Hindustani fusion is not new to my ears
or to global music fans in general, Deepak’s repertoire still has the
power to amaze and dazzle. A bansuri flute does not resemble a saxophone,
trumpet or even a standard flute. The bamboo flute which has its limitations
playing western jazz, lends itself extraordinarily well to micro tonal
Indian classical music. However, Deepak successfully meets the challenge
of bridging these two worlds which results in spectacular universal music.
Perhaps Coltrane’s love of Indian music and world music in general has
come full circle. Deepak grew up listening to Coltrane and Miles Davis
in Africa, but went onto study bansuri flute with Indian classical flute
masters, including Hariprasad Charasia. Coltrane discovered Indian classical
music early in his career, which sent him soaring in a new spiritual direction.
Steps is one of those CDs that will surprise you. It is accessible and
sophisticated at the same time, with plenty of world fusion where Brazil,
India and the U.S. build a peaceful bond. You just can't feel bad listening
to this one.
The Whole Music Experience - January 28, 2008
Even if you know John Coltrane’s composition “Giant
Steps” backward and forward, you still might not recognize the version
on Deepak Ram’s Steps. That’s because this legendary jazz standard is
performed on an Indian bansuri flute and set inside a samba arrangement.
The Coltrane classic “Naima” gets a misty, sun-and-shadows rainforest
feel via Jamey Haddad’s tropical percussion and Vic Juris’ meditative
acoustic guitar. The story goes that Ram got the idea for recording Steps
after a journalist told him that the bansuri might be fine for classical
Indian music, but it was far too limited an instrument for performing
a complex jazz piece like “Giant Steps.” Not only did Ram prove
him wrong, but he also demonstrates a variety of moods here, like giving
Gershwin’s “Summertime” a dreamy coffee house feel. Miles Davis'
“All Blues” and the Rodgers and Hart classic, “My Funny
Valentine,” get a more conventional small combo arrangement, with
Juris’ electric guitar lending a John Pizzarelli flavor. But what sets
these and other pieces apart is Ram’s lilting, microtonal approach, which
adds an enticing complexity that’s reminiscent of Indian ragas and ghazals.
Bob Tarte, WYCE Music Journal - January 13, 2008
when Deepak Ram pulls out his bansuri to take on Trane’s
“Giant Steps” to open his album, things get real interesting
real quick. Ram might be the only person in history to have mastered “Giant
Steps” on bansuri, but this simply reflects his life experience
with one foot in ragas and the other ensconced in jazz. On Steps, Ram
explores that combination and the results are exquisite.
With Ram’s bansuri coaxing freshness out of beautiful classics,
Steps is a fantastic album for fans of world music, jazz, and blues. It
breaks new territory for Deepak Ram and is a grand introduction to the
flute master’s flair and proficiency with the bansuri. The backing
band is great, with Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Jamey
Haddad on percussion. Steps is a nice inclusive little recording that
is adeptly executed and slickly rich in quality.
Jordon Richardson, BC Music - March 24, 2008
It’s also only been in recent years that attempts have
been made to cross pollinate Western and Eastern music with instruments
of the other culture. While a lot of platitudes have been said about music
being the universal language, the truth of the matter is that it can be
as specific to a culture as a language and a belief system and can prove
very difficult for someone outside that culture to reproduce.
Indian flutist Deepak Ram has, with the help of some friends, chosen to
try and bridge the gulf that separates Indian and western music by recording
a disc of American jazz music. Steps, released on Golden Horn Records
is a diverse collection of jazz music ranging from "standards"
like "My Funny Valentine" by Rodgers and Hart and "Summertime"
by the Gershwin brothers to the more technically advanced sounds of "Giant
Steps" by John Coltrane and "All Blues" by Miles Davis.
All things considered therefore it would be quite an accomplishment for
him to be able to even get through the songs that he’s chosen to play
with a degree of competency. The fact that he does that, sounds like he's
been playing jazz all his life, and makes it appear as if little or no
effort was involved in the whole production, is a testament to his amazing
musical ability and talent as a flautist. Like all good musicians, he's
not just satisfied with reproducing a song note for note in imitation
of how somebody else performed it, but strives to give each of the numbers
he’s chosen his own interpretation.
Richard Marcus, BC Music - February 25, 2008
Indian bamboo flutist DEEPAK RAM’s soaring Steps transform
Coltrane, Brubeck and Gershwin into intriguing butterfly meditations.
John Noyd, Maximum Ink Music Magazine - February
Rams "Steps", features the virtuoso bansuri player playing his
centruries old Indian bamboo flute into contempary jazz. The bansuri is
the instrument shown being played by varoius Hindu gods in stone friezes,
statues and icons.
The ancient wind instrument has been linked to classic Indian and new
age music, but here Ram, a south african of indian ethnicity, performs
jazz classics by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, George Gershwin and Darious
Brubeck, along with the two originals.The bansuri, with its limited range,
isnt as versitile as the flute. So, backed by a guitar-bass-drums combo
offering empathetic support, Ram bends and twists his notes to fit each
songs lofty jazz patterns to create new takes on a set of well known bopping
www.mixmagweb.com - February 1, 2008
As the principal student of Hariprasad Chaurasia —
who is widely regarded as the greatest, living performer of classical
Indian flute music — Deepak Ram has become one of the most versatile
bansuri players in the world today. His seven albums of classical ragas
are beautiful and challenging, and they should be heard. When playing
this type of music, Ram clearly is at the top of his game. Steps demonstrates
that he understands the jazz idiom, and when he tackles a suitable composition,
he has a lot to offer in terms of expanding the language of flute improvisation.
the full review …
Douglas Heselgrave, The Music Box - February 11, 2008
Deepak Ram is an established master of the bansuri ,
an Indian bamboo flute, and a prolific recording artist whose main focus
has been North Indian classical music. On Steps, the South African-born
Ram showcases an uncanny ability to improvise with the bansuri in a jazz
setting, accompanied by guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer
The disc has a mellow flavor with an abundance of world-beat grooves...The
idea of using an unconventional instrument like the bansuri on a jazz
recording finds success in the hands of a master musician like Ram. The
integration of musical cultures heard on Steps seems quite natural.
John Barron, All About Jazz
The Bansuri isn't an instrumental usually associated
with jazz. Instead you usually hear it in traditional Asian music since
it is an ancient Indian flute. But Deepak Ram demonstrates its potential
in a hard bop and blues setting on Steps (Golden Horn). He sometimes play
very lyrical, fleeing solos but on other occasions can play in a very
animated, challenging and edgy fashion on such tunes as "Madiba's
Dance" and "Blues For Shyam Babu." It’s also intriguing
to hear him reworking such standards as Coltrane’s "Naima" and
"Giant Steps," plus Miles Davis’ "All Blues," Darius
Brubeck’s "October" and both "Summertime" and "My
Funny Valentine." While second soloist and guitarist Vic Juris adds
his own pithy, sparking statements, the rhythm section of bassist Tony
Marino and Jamey Haddad are crisp and thorough in their foundations and
assistance. certainly doesn't sound like many other modern jazz recordings
thanks to Ram’s bansuri playing, but it does have a similar adherence
to rigorous standards in regards to thematic development and overall musical
Ron Wynn, Nashville The City Paper - January 28,
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