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“History’s greatest jazz recordings have always been those that meet the moment, using music and improvisation to reflect history, explore the issues and forge hope for a way forward. No jazz album in the first half of 2020 hits all these targets with greater precision than Indian born, NYC based veteran guitarist Noshir Mody, who is well known for leading his EthniFusion rock and jazz ensembles and performing with his trio."
Jonathan Widran, JWVibe
Illusions Grow by Noshir Mody
I finally got back to writing lyrics to my music after almost two decades of focussing exclusively on instrumental music. Steering away from the frivolous or exaggerated, my intent was to capture the truth as I know it today. The premise was: if I had the opportunity to speak to myself as a young teenager, to offer solace and comfort through this incredible journey of life which was about to take place – what would I say? Having already sketched out the harmony for this song, in about five minutes these lyrics flowed through me. Featuring piano and guitar solos and the wonderful Kate Victor on vocals, I hope this song strikes a chord with you as we all look to build a better, more inclusive and tolerant future for ourselves, our families, our communities, our countries and the world!
Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
Improvised Jazz Solo
Song Of The Year
Record Of The Year
"Gorgeous chord changes and lovely piano combine with sax and trumpet to create a hybrid uplifting melancholia that takes me to a place where the music fills my heart with joy and completeness."
Mike Gates, UKVibe.org
Under A Starlit Sky (2020) by Noshir Mody
Jazz Fusion To Inspire A Better Tomorrow.
After 9/11, circumstances forced me to leave the New York area and relocate to Georgia. I lived there for a couple of years getting my life back on track, developing deep and strong relationships but still sorely missing New York City. When an opportunity opened up to return to New York, I packed up my car and drove up without even having secured a place to stay. As those days progressed, no matter how tough situations presented themselves I was so full of hope that things were finally going to get better for me, that after spending a spring evening in Central Park, I returned to my apartment and penned Under A Starlit Sky. The song was released in 2008, four years later, on my solo recording In This World With You and last year I rearranged this song for the ensemble featuring guitar, seductive piano, dual improvising horns, and a developing thematic performance with dynamic bass and drums. Put on your headphones, turn up the volume and let the music envelope you. We could all use some hope in 2020 –
"...stunningly authentic, and wholly spiritualized album... "
Anne Carlini, AnneCarlini.com
Ol' Splitfoot by Noshir Mody
"The battle, as always, is within –"
The inspiration for the song "Ol’ Splitfoot":
The proprietor of a local spot in Manhattan (Hop House Harlem), introduced me to an exceptional craft Belgian style ale called “Old Split-foot”. As she described the characteristics of this beer in her vivacious style, I was hooked by the concept of an Ol’ Splitfoot. In the days that followed a complex and twisting harmony presented itself and emerging from it an innocence of a melody that transforms over the course of the song. The narrative examines our threshold for injustices before we consider crossing the very boundaries of decency that we aim to protect. The battle, as always, is within –
Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella
"NOSHIR MODY has a new CD that sees our potential to love one another and make the world a better place in An Idealist's Handbook... it’s a beautiful, intelligent conversation that blends, bends and expands on harmonic ideas."
Debbie Burke, Jazz Author
Radha by Noshir Mody
Coming from an Indian heritage, I’ve always been enchanted by the tryst of Radha (a milkmaid) and Krishna (an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu). It is a love that blossoms within a complex and highly charged backdrop, tinged with sadness and while resulting in physical separation, realizing a spiritual union of their consciousnesses. So often we enter into relationships pining for physical proximity, benefits and advantages and in the process fail to give and receive of ourselves without regard for benefit, advantage or reward. This tale of Radha transcends the values of that time and continues to be recognized as an immortal love story remembered for all the things that being in love brings us, within and without –
"The team is excellent at creating pastoral moods with modern colors, and the message is an encouraging ones during trying times."
George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
Rise by Noshir Mody
Are we in a crisis of identity?
I cannot accept that this is who we have become as a people; where apathy and partisanship permit this level of intolerance and callous rhetoric to execute on policies aimed at eroding our very humanity towards each other. We were founded on us pursuing our ideals as a people. Where we have come from or who our fathers and fore fathers were, are not supposed to be the factors that propagate us towards the American dream; but rather it is the American dream that liberates each and every one of us from where we have come and who our fathers and fore fathers were- The onus of shaping our today and tomorrows lies only with us. This is our time to rise and raise up our voice!
"The album contains several ‘Sketching’ pieces, where brief moments of intricate musicianship act as a precursor to the longer, fuller tunes. While the ‘Sketching’ of “Illusions Grow” offers meticulous guitar playing, ‘Sketching’ “Under A Starlight Sky” is 2 minutes of delicate, dreamy musicianship."
Tom Haugen, Take Effect
Sketching "Illusions Grow" & Sketching "Under A Starlit Sky (2020)" by Noshir Mody
The album weaves in elements that provide a window into the songwriting and compositional aspects of the music with its "sketching" and "illustrating" pieces. Here's a behind the scenes look into me tracking Sketching "Illusions Grow" and Sketching "Under A Starlit Sky (2020)" - two tracks that would go onto serve as precursors to the full ensemble versions on the album. This is how I typically conceive the songs prior to bringing them to the ensemble -
"Highly inventive memorable jazz...Noshir’s upbeat guitar work and the lively vibe of all the players on the excellent opener, “Radha”...will set your mind at ease and help you envision the goal of the album… “to save the world with awesome music“!"
Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
“Guitarist Noshir Mody is a fusion guitarist and so much more: he is a musical philosopher who addresses the current condition of the world today in a manner that makes both his music and his lyrics poignant…Beautiful music, rich in significant ideas – this is an antidote for the way the world’s pressures impact us.”
Grady Harp, HALL OF FAME REVIEWER, Amazon
While Noshir Mody has been thought of as a fusion guitarist who creates colorful music, on An Idealist’s Handbook he shows that he is also a talented lyricist, a deep thinker, and a versatile improviser who is impossible to categorize.
Noshir Mody’s new set of music features pianist Campbell Charshee, bassist Yuka Tadano, drummer Jarrett Walser, Mike Mullan on alto and tenor saxophone, trumpeter-flugelhornist Benjamin Hankle and, on two of the five main pieces, singer Kate Victor. Three of the five originals are preceded by brief “sketches” that feature Mody playing solo guitar, while “Illusions Grow” is performed twice with the second version being a briefer reprise.
“Radha” opens the intriguing work with a tribute to an immortal and traditional love story from India. The atmospheric piece begins with a rhythmic pattern stated by the bassist, Mody and Hankle blend together to state the theme and the guitarist stretches out in his inventive solo. “Illusions Grow,” which features the leader’s first lyrics in 20 years, is about the message that he would say today if he had the opportunity to give advice to his younger self. The pretty tune, which includes fine piano and guitar solos, has Kate Victor singing about how illusions may come and go but love is truth.
“Ol’ Splitfoot” is about the battle to retain one’s decency despite having the desire to right all wrongs any way that one can. Mody’s guitar improvisation grows in intensity and passion as it evolves, as if he was in a fight of good versus evil. “Rise,” which features some particularly powerful and triumphant singing by Kate Victor, is a plea for democracy, tolerance, and a common purpose. “Under A Starlit Sky (2020)” is an instrumental epic, building up gradually before cooling off at its conclusion. The reprise of “Illusions Grow” ends the set with a message of hope and optimism, highlighted by some brilliant acoustic guitar playing from the leader.
Noshir Mody is a self-taught guitarist who was born and raised in Bombay, India. He moved to New York when he was 22. During the past 25 years he has developed into a major guitarist and composer, leading his EthniFusion Rock Ensemble and the EthniFusion Jazz Ensemble and regularly performing with his trio in clubs.
Mody’s recordings include his solo guitar set In This World With You, an outing with his trio (Union Of Hearts) and his quintet and sextet ensembles on Stories From The Years Of Living Passionately and A Burgeoning Consciousness.
Always displaying a highly individual sound on the guitar and a fresh imagination, Noshir Mody is heard in top form throughout his timely An Idealist’s Handbook: Identity, Love and Hope in America 2020.
“The guitar ace creates special music for hopeless times and tosses the listener a rope to let them know things are bound to turn around. Uplifting fusion, this is the kind of music that does well by doing good.”
Chris Spector, Midwest Record
PHOTO CREDIT - MIKE MULLAN, MIKEMULLAN.COM
"Mody came to the U.S. from India when he was just 22, and since then has proved time and time again he’s a guitar virtuoso with a skill set that few can replicate. Here, he also proves that he’s a strong lyricist, as his songwriting takes on a new dimension that, in this very difficult year for America, could help heal some of the wounds or at least provide some relief from all the tragedy."
Tom Haugen, Take Effect Reviews
INTERVIEW WITH JAZZ AUTHOR, DEBBIE BURKE
A new CD is just out from composer and guitarist Noshir Mody called “An Idealist’s Handbook” and it’s a beautiful, intelligent conversation that blends, bends and expands on harmonic ideas. Marrying guitar and piano seems effortless and natural to Mody, who launches the song “Ol’ Splitfoot” with sweetness and lyricism. This soon yields to an increasing intensity until gleaming horns and full percussion involvement brings about the crescendo. This song is a fantastic showpiece that masters tricky changes in dynamics as well as tempo. “Rise” plays with chords, some dissonant and leading, and midrange vocals that slay. Very skilled picking from Mody on this track as well. In “Under a Starlit Sky” he’s not shy about exploring the high end of the frets and stays very comfortably in that rarefied air with an echo that evokes a harp.
DB: Are you the idealist here?
NM: When creating this project, I was going through the pages of my book that I use to scribble random thoughts, lyrics, chord voicings, lists, etc. and I narrowed down my selection to five pieces that I thought were ready to be shared with the world. As I sat there trying to determine the central theme to these seemingly disjointed songs so I could name the project, it occurred to me that I should just call it what it is – “An Idealist’s Handbook”.
The five songs tackle topics of identity, love and hope that are central to defining our experience today as Americans. The term “idealist” has always come with a negative connotation of weakness, as someone who lacks the practical know-how or ability to execute successfully in this world. I don’t share that view or perception and feel we need more forward thinking, capable idealists to deliver outcomes if we are ever going to manifest a fairer society based on merit.
DB: Where did you get the initial inspiration for this album from?
NM: I compose as I’m inspired, and this album is a compilation of my compositions/arrangements that occurred over the last two years or so. The material just seemed so timely to me with the current situation of our country.
DB: How do you believe these tracks reflect the diversity of identities in America today?
NM: The album narrative is from my experiences and point of view, but even though I’m an immigrant who is now a naturalized US citizen my experience is not an isolated one. In my interactions I have found that we are in a crisis of identity as Americans – do we stand for tolerance, compassion, courage, innovation, endurance or do we want to be ‘great’ while restricting access, building walls, denying opportunities, designing and implementing vastly different policies for different segments of the population and incurring deficits of humanity towards our own people?
I cannot fathom how we can have a single identity as Americans while enacting an agenda that favors only a section of our country’s population providing only them with opportunities to education, financial well-being, health care services and the fair enforcement of laws and due process.
DB: Do you think music – jazz in particular – provides hope, and how?
NM: To me, music is expression and specifically Jazz is expression through dialog and conversation– the day we stop conversing and discussing is the day issues will spill onto the streets, as we are currently witnessing. So yes, expression/dialog/discussion in any form is hopeful, since as long as we are engaged in the process the expectation for a better outcome still exists.
In my opinion, the cornerstone of jazz which is improvisation over propulsive rhythms artistically embodies the fundamental human desire to be free and evolving.
DB: You have a large ensemble. What caused you to invite these musicians to participate in the album?
NM: For years now, everyone who is in the ensemble is either referred by someone else in the ensemble or is someone that has caught my attention. But at this level I don’t fuss too much about skill since they can all throw down. I’m focused on attracting and keeping quality individuals who are unique in their vision of themselves and the world and as a result can bring something to the table.
I find that musicians gravitate towards certain songs, that there is a natural sympathetic process that lends one musician to excel in a solo for a particular song over another. It’s my function to arrange the music for the recordings highlighting those relationships between artists and material.
DB: Your favorite track? The most challenging one?
NM: This is hard, I really do love them all since I relate to each one of them in a very unique manner. So, no favorite but for most challenging I’d pick “Ol’ Splitfoot” because we’re switching time signatures within the song – between 7/8 and 4/4 (a composite of 7/8 and 9/8).
DB: What is the overall mood you are going for?
NM: I want listeners to hear this album and be inspired to act. To realize that ultimately, we alone are responsible for how this current situation in our country plays out. I’m not advocating politics, I’m advocating participation. Feel strongly about whatever your position may be and take part in the process. We can all learn from one another and move forward.
DB: What are you most proud of in your music career thus far?
NM: I believe and persevere and that takes its toll as I realize I can be difficult to be around during these periods, but I feel a great sense of pride and gratitude when my visions eventually take shape and inspire people.
DB: Other comments?
NM: Much love to the incredible musicians and engineers on this album – Kate Victor, Mike Mullan, Benjamin Hankle, Campbell Charshee, Yuka Tadano, Jarrett Walser, Brian Sargent, John Davis and Alex DeTurk.
(Interview © Debbie Burke 2020)
Full Interview Link - Here