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 4, 2008

Deepak Ram - StepsDeepak 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 chestnuts. - 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. Read 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 Jamey Haddad.

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 quality.

Ron Wynn, Nashville The City Paper - January 28, 2008

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