Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan - 75th Celebration Swara Sadhana (CD Navras)

There's a very strange moment early on during the quiet and contemplative Alap section where Khan appears to have found a note that is an oddity. He plays it over and over tentatively as if it's fragile he can't stop observing. He dwells on it for a moment and somehow it then becomes part of the Alap. 

These recordings of his rendition of Raga Zilla Kafi (and evening raag) have clearly been edited down from a much larger performance. His playing became and immersive and went beyond the recordings. It was the performance of the raag that mattered, not the recording. It's always that way but not always so clearly apparent. It must've been a very moving experience to be in the room hearing him and Sadashiv Pawar (on tabla) playing through the raag. Incidentally Pawar's tablas are lower in the mix, which is a shame because he does a great job of accompanying, and keeping up with, Khan. 

His recognisable way of playing is as if your hearing objectivity become subjectivity - the familiar note is seen in another way. One moment it's a flow, but then it's almost poked at repeatedly. It's this and then becomes that. So which is it? And then you realise it is all things at all times. It's a wonderful moment when you let yourself hear that and understand the consequences.  

During the Gat in Drut Teental section there's an abruptness, a rapidity of playing through the theme and then letting it skitter off only to lock back in again. The lyrical playing doesn't falter for a second. He'll shatter notes and timings into their fractions but with such precision that it all makes sense and isn't merely a demonstration of technique and skill.  

Martin Clayton provides informative sleeve-notes in the accompanying sleeve notes and there's also an interesting  obituary on the recordist Shri Deben Bhattacharya who died in 2001. It was he who recorded this particular album and, astonishingly, did it with the use of just one microphone. Hence the forgivable lack of balance between sitar and tabla. HM

Contact: www.navrasrecords.com