Washington Post Review

Sandip Burman at the Rams Head
by Mike Joyce

The veteran fusion players who teamed up with Indian percussionist Sandip Burman at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis Sunday night had their work cut out for them. Fiendishly tricky time signatures, racing tempos, and raga-inspired motifs made the compositions played by the East Meets Jazz ensemble extremely challenging.

Much of the music was distinguished by densely woven patterns that Burman played on tablas, as he pitted the rapid pulses of four dayan drums against the deeper tones produced by a solitary, bowl-shaped bayan.

The concert opened on a deceptively simple note, with a tune introducing Burman's tour mates: guitarist Paul Bollenback, trumpeter Randy Brecker, harmonica-keyboard player Howard Levy, bassist Victor Bailey, violinist Jerry Goodman, and drummer Steve Smith. But, it wasn't long before the music became more demanding and colorfully evoked the strong ties some of these musicians have with groundbreaking bands. Goodman's rhapsodic tone, for example, conjured memories of his work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, just as surely as Bailey's fluid bass lines recalled his association with Weather Report.

Burman, for his part, is nothing if not a catalyst. He engaged Bollenback, who played a nylon-string acoustic instrument with remarkable speed and precision, in a series of dazzling exchanges. The percussionist also dared Smith to keep up with him as he searched for fresh ways to sustain the band's intense rhythmic drive.