K. Gopalnath, J. Newton, P. Srinivasan
Water Lily Acoustics
Southern Brothers is a part of Water Lily's experiments in cross-cultural musical unions. This particular blend is derived from South Indian Karnatak and American jazz. Adding to this already strange mix of musical styles, is the relative obscurity of the represented instruments. Kadri Gopalnath is said to be the only known Karnatak style saxophone player. Gopalnath's exposure to the saxophone was the result of his hearing remnants of brass bands from the British colonial era. James Newton, although not alone, is certainly in the minority as a jazz flautist. Both of these men are clearly masters of their instruments, and indeed, they are pushing the boundaries of their respective musical traditions. Puvalur Srinivasan provides accompaniment on the mrindangam, but is not given room to contribute more creatively to the interaction.
Southern Brothers was recorded in a mere five hours. It must have taken many more to write the 19 pages of liner notes that accompany the CD and attempt to locate it within a celebrated tradition of cross-cultural musical encounters. While the album is certainly interesting as an experiment, it does not achieve a great new synthesis, but instead, reflects the difficulty of actually bridging the gulf between cultures. It sounds as though Gopalnath and Newton are literally working out their relationships as the recording session unfolds. They appear like two congenial strangers who meet in a formal setting and then proceed to manufacture the illusion of a very heady conversation. Nevertheless, Southern Brothers does contain segments of dazzling virtuosity. The difficulties of the encounter are also interesting to observe. - Joshua Levin