Spellbound (Moosicus Records)

Trilok Gurtu 

Released April 19, 2013

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2013




Two short snippets recorded live by and with Don Cherry bookend the album “Spellbound”: a 33-second improvisation in a duo with Cherry on trumpet and Trilok Gurtu, who can be heard on the drum set especially converted and modified for his needs, forms the start of the new CD by the Indian percussionist, while a brief “Thank you, thank you very much” from Cherry for the applause of the audience closes the album.

Even though the other pieces on “Spellbound” contain no other recordings with this jazz legend, who died in Malaga in Spain in 1995, every single sound on the CD is an expression of Trilok Gurtu’s great admiration for the man and musician Don Cherry. After all, it was the American trumpeter who, in the first half of the 1970s, encouraged the young percussionist, freshly arrived in Europe, i.e. Italy, from his homeland of India, to pursue his vision of an intuitive music which is open to the world and embraces the world, and to realise this vision.

And even more. With every track on “Spellbound” Trilok Gurtu has turned to the instrument that Cherry himself played: the trumpet. This brass instrument is practically a symbol for Gurtu’s own musical vision. In its different versions, the trumpet has found a place in countless cultural circles around the world and has become an essential element of many different styles. The trumpet plays an important role in classical, symphonic music, just as in pop, world and, of course, jazz music.

“Spellbound” is by no means a typical album for the percussionist who was born in 1951 in Bombay (today Mumbai) in India. For several reasons. At first glance we are surprised that, after such a long time, Trilok Gurtu has turned again to improvised music even though all his life the concept of “jazz” has always been far too restrictive. But, just like his one-time mentor and friend Don Cherry, with whom Gurtu started playing just a few years after the first encounter in Italy, he is not concerned with style boundaries. For Gurtu jazz is an attitude which makes it possible for him in the first place to overcome the boundaries between styles and genres; and to elaborate the quintessence – also in emotional terms – of his music: jazz as a universal language which, despite all of its different dialects, is spoken and understood all over the world.

With “Spellbound” Gurtu once again underlines the fact that jazz still forms the basis for his musical oeuvre. With his band he takes

a surprising leap into the history of swing music in the USA and also plays pieces by style-forming trumpeters who have long been a part of the jazz canon: Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro-Cuban classic “Manteca”, or a tribute to the extraordinary fusion sound of Miles Davis from the 1970s, “Jack Johnson/Black Saint”, as well as his “All Blues” from the masterpiece “Kind Of Blue” and, of course, Don Cherry’s “Universal Mother” which, with its genre-crossing flow in the version by Gurtu, is almost like a further motto for “Spellbound”. With the music on his new album the percussionist succeeds in something that nowadays is unusual and indeed rare: building a bridge between the continents and cultures. With “old” Europe as the geographical basis which, with its multi-layered cultural and musical history, has become Gurtu’s second home.

This becomes clear in the line-up of trumpeters he invited to collaborate in the recording of “Spellbound”. The Norwegian Nils Petter Molvær, for example, who, like no other European trumpeter, can translate the seething funk-rock mixture of a Miles Davis from the early 1970s into the expression of an improvising musician from Europe. Or the Italian Paolo Fresu, who always manages to transform the melodious, hot-blooded temperament of his homeland into a cool sound design. Or the German multi-talent Matthias Schriefl, whose youthful impetuosity stretches even Gurtu’s music beyond the boundaries of tonality. And then there is Ibrahim Maalouf, a native of Lebanon living in France, who plays the melisma of Arabic musical culture on his unusual quarter tone trumpet, as well as Hasan Gözetlik from Turkey, who transfers the emotionality-increasing microtonality of the folklore of his homeland to a current, contemporary music. A veritable symbol of Trilok Gurtu’s vision of a world music “without borders” is a number that in this acoustic context is a genuine surprise. With his version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”, Gurtu mixes the cultures in passing: In a 5/4 time unusual for this jazz classic, Gurtu and his band generate a link to the rhythmic consciousness of his homeland India. With his scintillatingly phrased solo, the young US trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire takes the succinct riff theme back to its origins in the USA and, with a bow to the great musical history of Europe, the classical trumpet virtuoso Matthias Höfs from Hamburg brings this Miles Davis classic to an end. Trilok Gurtu’s equilateral triangle, with the equally musical and cultural corner points of India America and Europe, is perfect.

Track Listing:

1. Improvisation Live (Don Cherry / Trilok Gurtu) 00:33

2. Manteca (Walter Fuller / Dizzy Gillespie / Luciano Gonzales) 04:36

3. Jack Johnson/Black Satin (Miles Davis) 09:38

4. Cuckoo (Trilok Gurtu) 04:56

5. Berchidda (Trilok Gurtu) 05:36

6. Like Popcorn (Trilok Gurtu) 04:25

7. Haunting (Trilok Gurtu / Wolf Kerscheck) 05:16

8. Universal Mother (Don Cherry) 06:30

9. Spellbound (Trilok Gurtu) 04:32

10. All Blues (Miles Davis / Wolf Kerscheck) 06:41

11. Cosmic Roundabout/Brown Rice (Don Cherry / Trilok Gurtu) 04:39

12. Thank You (Trilok Gurtu) featuring Don Cherry 00:15


Don Cherry: trumpet (1), voice (12)

Hasan Gözetlik: trumpet (2)

Trilok Gurtu: percussion (1-11), drums (2-11), vocal (2, 4), additional keyboard (2, 5, 6, 9), tumbura (3), tabla (3, 5, 6, 10, 11)

Tulug Tirpan: keyboards (2-6, 8, 9, 11), piano (7, 10)

Jonathan Cunaido: bass (2-11)

Nitin Shankar: additional percussion (2, 6)

Nils Petter Molvær: trumpet (3, 9)

Carlo Cantini: additional keyboards (3)

Ibrahim Maalouf: trumpet (4, 8)

Paolo Fresu: trumpet (5, 11), effects (5, 11)

Matthias Schriefl: trumpet (6)

Matthias Höfs: trumpet (7), doublebell trumpet (10, second solo)

Helene Traub: english horn (7)

Jakob Janeschitz-Kriegel: cello (7)

Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet (10, first solo)

Recorded September 2012, at Toprak Studio, Istanbul, Turke (2) by Taner Karal;

Recorded September 2012 at Studio Babelmontreuil, Paris, France (4, 8) by Vincent Joinvil; 

Recorded September 2012 at Töne & Worte Mobile Studio, Germany (7, 10) by Rene Türschmann;

Recorded October 2012 at Studio Frysja, Oslo, Norway (3, 9);

Recorded December 2012 at NuR Recording, Cologne, Germany (6) by Carlo Cantini, Nico Raschke;

Recorded December 2012 at Digitube Studio, Mantova, Italy (1, 5, 11, 12);

Ambrose Akinmusire recorded December 2012 at Entourage Studio, North Hollywood, CA (10) by Brian Risner;

Trilok Gurtu (percussion, vocals) recorded at T-Studio, Hamburg, Germany by Helge Hasselberg

Keyboards recorded by Mehmet Ergin

Produced by Trilok Gurtu with Carlo Cantini & Joachim Becker

Executive-Producers: Trilok Gurtu & Joachim Becker

Associate Executive Producer: Graham Lawson

Mixed by Carlo Cantini

Mastered by Marko Schneider

Cover Design: Christine Engel, David Negelen


Indian-born percussionist Trilok Gurtu pays homage to avant-garde trumpeter Don Cherry with 2013’s Spellbound. As a member of Cherry’s band from 1976 to 1978, Gurtu experienced Cherry’s cross-cultural approach to music firsthand, an approach that greatly influenced his own musical direction. Bookended by two tracks Gurtu recorded with Cherry prior to the pocket trumpeter’s death in 1995, Spellbound picks up on Cherry’s mix of groove-oriented sounds from Indian to Afro-Cuban music to funk, free jazz, classical, and ambient improvisation. Joining Gurtu here are a handful of trumpeters who, in their own way, evoke the adventurous spirit of Cherry’s improvisation, including Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, Norway’s Nils Petter Molvær, German multi-talent Matthias Schriefl, Lebanese quarter-tone trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, and Turkey’s Hasan Gözetlik. Spellbound is an engaging, stylistically varied album that truly evokes the magic of Cherry’s music.

Matt Collar (AllMusic)