Water Lily Acoustics (WLA-CS-71-CD)
Ronu Majumdar, Ry Cooder and Jon Hassell
If you’re a fan of what is almost certainly Water Lily’s most popular release, the Grammy winning A Meeting By The River, than this 2000 release from the small Santa Barbara label is something of a no-brainer. Similar in approach to Meeting, Hollow Bamboo pairs eastern musical masters with western ones, this time pairing Ry Cooder (guitar and Turkish Oud), Rick Cox (guitar), and Jon Hassell (trumpet) with Bamboo Flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar, and Abhijit Banerjee on Tabla. As he did on Meeting, Ry Cooder’s son Joachim adds percussion on several tracks as well.
The selections range from traditional Indian songs arranged by Majumdar and performed with only Tabla and Flute, to western, folky, occasionally bluesy tracks contributed by Cooder and Hassell. The result is a gorgeous amalgam of sounds and cultural influences, the kind of “world music” that Ry Cooder has become almost synonymous with in recent years. Like “A Meeting By The River”, Hollow Bamboo is soothing, meditative music, beautifully played and lovingly recorded by Kavichandran Alexander with an all analog, all tube recording chain designed by Tim de Paravicini of EAR. Recorded in minimalist fashion in a church in Santa Barbara, the sound is rich and reverberant, with stunning detail.
Luckily, unlike so many “audiophile” recordings, the quality of the music here more than matches the quality of the recording. This is quiet music, lyrical, unusually subtle, and very cinematic in places. Listening to the gorgeous, super-minimalist comping by Ry Cooder on several of the cuts it’s not hard to see why he’s played on so many soundtracks. If Paris Texas had been made by Indian director Satyajit Ray, this record would make the perfect musical accompaniment. I’ve been playing this CD late at night quite often over the past month, ending my day by falling under its serene, meditative spell. Those expecting the more propulsive and energetic tone of A Meeting By The River might be disappointed, but this is nevertheless a rare and beautiful musical hybrid and a great recording to boot.