One thing that many musicians wouldn't dare too easily to do, it is for them to have the bravery to re-tune completely and in a different direction the center of their personal music styles or, at least, the music genre they have become mostly known for.
It was for this very same reason that, when our website had first the opportunity to listen to the new EP called Standards Vol.1 from American composer, guitarist and producer Rafiq Bhatia, mostly known for his amazing work with the Avant-Garde Rock band Son Lux, we were completely and pleasantly taken by surprise by Bhatia's new project.
Standards Vol. 1 is Bhatia's personal take on some of the best works of giants of Jazz music, like Ornette Coleman or Duke Ellington, for example, where Bhatia almost dismantles and reassembles classic of the genre through a unique, Avant-Gardesque perspective.
To be able to apply his vision and give to the four tracks included in Standards Vol. 1 full musical justice, Bhatia surrounded himself of some of the finest musicians of the contemporary Jazz scene, from Bhatia's old school friend pianist Chris Pattishall to vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, among others.
Standards Vol. 1 is a highly fascinating and complex project. The opening tune In A Sentimental Mood becomes totally unrecognizable, in his new musical dress, with Bhatia asking his musicians to play, in his own words, "Delicately and quietly", the first fifty seconds of the tune that he had written backwards, building, in this way, an unorthodox but sonically intriguing wall of sound.
The whole record has got almost a cinematic feeling to it. Perhaps inspired by the work of one of Bhatia's most favorite film director, David Lynch, the American artist infuses the tunes, part of Standards Vol. 1, with delicate layers of Electronica to the original structure of the songs, giving them a new, atmospheric twist.
Bhatia is certainly a clever artist, because he knows exactly how and where to distill, in each tune, elements of saxophone, piano or vocals to enrich and complete his musical vision about Standards Vol. 1. McLorin Salvant gifts the listeners with a sublime vocal rendition on The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, where other equally very talented musicians, like the saxophonist Stephen Riley, delivers an exquisite solo on Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman, where Bhatia bravely and successfully shifts the core of the whole tune to a more nomadic/tribal level, chiseling in this way a little gem of contemporary musical escapism at its very best.
The closing The Single Petal Of A Rose is a very revered homage to one of Bhatia's all-time Jazz Heroes, Duke Ellington. The mood becomes more nostalgic, with Pattishall's piano playing a vital part in the making of Bhatia's own vision of Ellington's classic. It almost feels like Bhatia wanted, through this closing more true-to-the-original version, to bring the essence of the Jazz back home, after having deconstructed and then put together again the music of his favorite Jazz players.
Standards Vol. 1 is, undoubtedly, one of the most interesting and inspired music projects of 2020 so far. Rafiq Bhatia is a joy to listen to, because his take on music of different genres like Jazz, in this instance, it is very personal, yet very soulful and at the same time never over-indulgent. Standards Vol.1 has planted the seeds for some sonic flowers of exceptional beauty and there is no doubts that, in years to come, there will be more and more of those wonderful flowers, in Rafiq Bhatia's Wonder Garden of music.
Standards Vol. 1 is out now and it is available on ITunes