A set that's matured beautifully in the years since its original release.
John Eyles 2012
Back in 1996, vocalist Barb Jungr had toured the world with the British Council but not yet released her first solo album; Kuljit Bhamra was a successful percussionist and Bhangra producer but had not yet worked on the soundtrack to Bend It Like Beckham or recorded with saxophonist Andy Sheppard; and pianist Russell Churney (who died tragically young, of cancer, in 2007) was a renowned musical director and composer.
In that year, the three recorded Durga Rising. Although previously available via mail order, this expanded version is released properly for the first time. Subtitled "an Indo-Jazz Adventure", it seamlessly combines Indian percussion with jazz vocals into an amalgam that sounds like a natural combination. Credit goes to Bhamra whose choice of rhythms and percussion gives an Indian flavour to the music without unduly altering it.
Eleven of the album’s 15 songs are originals by members of the trio, the remaining four being cover versions. As on Jungr’s solo albums, those covers come from a surprising range of sources, yet her interpretations reinvent them, making them her own. In typical fashion, she conveys the nuances of every line, singing them all as if she has lived each experience and emotion.
Jungr devotees will be delighted – but not surprised – that the album’s outstanding track is a version of Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell, her first recording of one of his songs. Lasting nine minutes, it begins gently but steadily intensifies before a fine cello solo from Stan Adler and Jungr’s wailing harmonica solo lead to an impassioned climax.
Just as impressive are the sensuous version of John Martyn’s Go Down Easy and the cello-driven reworking of The Cutter by Echo & The Bunnymen. Vital to the album’s success, the originals manage to hold their own in such exalted company. They cover a broad spectrum from the catchy pop-inflected Watch Me as I Fall, by Bhamra-Jungr, to the more emotionally harrowing Choose to be Alone by Churney-Jungr and the powerful Green message of Crimes Against Nature by Jungr and guest guitarist James Tomalin.
Like vintage wine, Durga Rising has matured beautifully in the years since its original release.