Rajiv Jayaweera, Pistils
Outside in Music, 2020
The fastest musical connection between New York and South Asia with a stopover in Australia nowadays runs through drummer and percussionist Rajiv Jayaweera. Together with Aaron Parks and Chris Cheek, among others, he provides VIP treatment along the way.
Today things are less vibrant than a few months ago, but in the pre-corona era, New York's appeal as a jazz hub was undisputed. Rajiv Jayaweera couldn't resist the temptation either. Born in London, raised in Melbourne and now a resident of The Big Apple.
'Pistils' is his debut. Jayaweera lets the New York influences sink in but doesn't forget his Sri Lankan roots. He incorporates this colorful mixture into the eight compositions he wrote for this album. He brought in Chris Cheek, Aaron Parks, Hugh Stuckey, Sam Anning and Lara Bello to work everything out expertly. Fortunately, it was not a meaningless fusion or crossover. All the classic basic elements from western jazz are ingeniously woven into the songs. The Asian influences remain extremely limited but are always very functional, such as the use of the thammattama drum or temple drum in 'Ellstandissa' and 'The Elephant'.
The emphasis is now on a lyrical approach with a strong focus on smooth melody lines, then on an adapted rhythm pattern to obtain a (feather) light trance effect. This balancing act keeps the whole thing interesting and engaging. Most different is 'Hirimbura', a semi-blues shuffle. To give an interesting insight into the whole potential, the CD starts and ends with the title track, albeit each time with a different soloist. At the beginning it is vocalist Lara Bello and at the end Chris Cheek gets to do his thing.
A CD without dominant characteristics, but with a dispersed dynamic and enough compelling staging anchored in various origins.
Georges Tonla Briquet