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TO THOSE ALREADY familiar with Jonas Hellborg, it'll come as no surprise that the bassist/composer's newest disc, ICON [Bardo 042], confounds expectations and defies easy categorization. This is, after all, an artist who has leant his talents to acts as diverse as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Public Image Ltd., and whose own albums have convincingly incorporated aspects of metal, jazz, fusion, Middle-Eastern music, classical, punk, and post-bop - oftentimes within the same song.

Nonetheless,it is an eye-opener even for the seasoned Hellborg aficionado. ICON is so much more than simply a display of virtuosity. Hellborg and Selvaganesh are credited as the primary composers of the four tracks and it is the pair's oblique, abstract sense of melody and ambitious rhythmic schemes that truly set this collection apart. For this CD, recorded in London, Memphis, and New York, Jonas gathered the lineup behind 2000's stellar GOOD PEOPLE in Times of Evil [Bardo 040] - hard rock guitarist Shawn Lane and Indian percussionist V. Selvaganesh (Kanjeera and Konokol) - and has also added vocalist V. Umamahesh and percussionist V. Umashankar (Ghatam and Konokol) to the mix. The collaboration results in some of most lively, visceral and transcendent music you'll hear this year.

"Improvisation is the backbone of both Indian music and jazz," explains Hellborg. "True improvisation is a very difficult thing to achieve - it has to both build upon and defy tradition."

The furious tempos, rapid-fire percussion, and dexterous bass and guitar lines would be worth a listen on their own merits, but the music on ICON is so much more than simply a display of virtuosity. Hellborg and Selvaganesh are credited as the primary composers of the four tracks and it is the pair's oblique, abstract sense of melody and ambitious rhythmic schemes that truly set this collection apart.

Commenting on the new disc's title and the unlikely pairing of artists behind the music, Hellborg notes: "Indian culture is related to Occidental culture by common lingual roots. Probably also by mythological roots.

The iconic hero/virtuoso musician is common to both cultures, as is the mirror image of the struggling ascetical beggar musician. Icons help one to escape the bondage of vanity. You attach importance to an idol that is you, but not you - it's like a garment that you can wear to partake in a greater identity than your own. It is also a trap that can catch you and rob you of yourself."

 

ICON
 
Jonas Hellborg - bass
V. Selvaganesh - kanjeera and konokol
V. Umashankar - ghatam and konokol
V. Umamamesh - vocals
Shawn Lane - guitar
 
1 Anchor 15:04
2 Mirror 23:20
3 Vehicle 16:10
4 Escape 04:06
 
All titles by Hellborg/Selvaganesh published by Bardo Music.
Recorded at Air Edel Studios in London, Bardo Studios in New York and The Dungeon in Memphis TN.
Mixed at Air Studios London by Tim Hunt with Assistant Engineer Jake Jackson.
Mastered at Starec Mastering Lab by Lennart Schander.
Art Direction Magnus Bergström