Melodic Intersect forges new paths for jazz on “Looking Forward”


Melodic Intersect blends the expectations of jazz and world music to create soundscapes familiar to a variety of listeners. The new album, “Looking Forward,” presents songs that mix interesting instrumentation and inspired arrangements for a new listening experience.

Introduction to Melodic Intersect

Few times in music history has a name been so accurate. Melodic Intersect consists of Enayet Hossain on tabla, Hidayat Khan on sitar, Greg Hatza on organ and piano, Joy Islam on guitar, Fred Koch on saxophone, Avirodh Sharma on world percussion, and Qamar Abbas on the Cajon.

The players are from a range of locations. Bangladesh, Trinidad, Pakistan, India and the United States are represented in the group.

Melodic Intersect was started by Hossain. His stated purpose was to create music outside of the mainstream that lent itself to improvisation. “Looking Forward” is the group’s sixth album. The album just before this one, “Looking Back” indicates an ongoing theme about time.

The sound of “Looking Forward” by Melodic Intersect

The world music qualities of Melodic Intersect appear most audibly when the sitar is played. The instruments tend to introduce themselves slowly, as if letting audiences know what they are and how they behave.

The improvisation element is like that of jazz, where the instruments at times seem to play in their own universes. Those same sounds mingle and create an entirely new set of sounds. The difference with Melodic Intersect and traditional jazz is found in the instruments used.

Melodic Intersect: “The Jazzy Streets of Mumbai”

The opening notes from a guitar are joined by the gentle crush of a keyboard. Then the sitar joins in. The strings and keyboard play without the grounding of drums. The result is a light and airy soundscape, as if looking and hearing through gauze. Less than two minutes in, the tabla arrives.

The water-soaked sound of the tabla gives the entire piece an extra layer of intensity. A guitar cries for several measures before quieting and giving space to a sitar. Then, the two sound as if they are taking turns. The Cajon provides a depth of sound to balance the waterlogged sound of the tabla.

(Note: Tablas do not appear to contain water. I am simply describing the sound quality. Unlike certain other hand drums that people might be more familiar with, such as congas, the sound is not hollow or stiff. The sound of the tabla ripples, as if the sound itself were composed of heavy drops of water.)

Each instrument creates its own world of sound. East meets west as the song works toward its arranged conclusion. The guitar, tabla and Cajon work gets faster, more improvisational, toward the song’s end. The piano work turns jazzy with its treatment of rhythm and chords. With all that is going on, listeners are never overwhelmed.

“Rhythmic Paths” of Melodic Intersect

The deep, hollow sound of the Cajon opens the piece and sets the stage for the “rhythm” of the title. After several measures, a chime lightens the mood, and listeners are prepared for the current rhythmic path to diverge.

More percussion pounds into the piece, gentle thunder with various tones and textures. The texture mostly comes from the different speeds that the Cajon, tabla, and other percussion instruments are played. The tabla is the most consistent; the other sounds speed up and slow down in a barely predictable collage of percussion. The result is something unlike anything I’ve heard.

With clever and skillful approaches to making a cross-section of jazz and world music, Melodic Intersect introduces audiences to instruments that they might not have heard before. In addition to new instrumentation, the sounds are put together in ways that could challenge audiences’ preconceived ideas of what a mix of jazz and world music might sound like. On “Looking Forward,” Melodic Intersect gives listeners a glimpse into the future of jazz.





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