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Still forging ahead

Kali's Son
Kali's Son
By Jonas Hellborg

Bardo: 2005

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2006.

This disc was released in Europe in late 2005, and in the United States earlier this year. Been played a ton. It continues bassist Jonas Hellborg's previous albums that have created common ground between Western and Indian forms.

It's also the first album Hellborg has recorded since the passing of his longtime musical partner, guitarist Shawn Lane, who died in the fall of 2003. They had recorded and performed together for most of the 1990s and the first few years of the new century, forming an empathy that led to their music seeming to come from a single instrument, a single player.

But Lane is gone and Hellborg's creativity remains undimmed, and here he re-teams with Indian percussionist Selvaganesh, who played with Hellborg and Lane on two previous albums and a DVD. With Hellborg and Selvaganesh still having their own empathy going on rhythm, creating a bottom end both lithe and thick, they've brought in sitarist Niladri Kumar to take over the melodic leads Lane would have previously played.

It's definitely more Near Eastern than when Lane was involved – how could it not be? – but that feeling of confident exploration remains. This trio is very nearly as good as the one with Hellborg, Selvaganesh and Lane, with a near-frenetic beat pushing Kumar's sitar and zitar close to a frenzy, right up to the breaking point – but he's virtuosic enough to stay on top of it, to teeter along that edge without going over.

It's breathtaking to listen to, and longtime fans of Hellborg will place it among his best work to date.

Lane continues to be missed; he was a prodigious talent who can't really be replaced. But Hellborg and Selvaganesh haven't tried to replace him – they've found another voice to fill that void, and the new music they're creating is an absolute treasure.