The innovative and experimental musician Rafiq Bhatia is releasing Standards Vol. 1 today, a four song EP that transforms canonical jazz works into otherworldly sounds that are uniquely his own.
Bhatia has also shared a phantasmagorical new video for his rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”; watch the vividly throbbing clip HERE.
Bhatia’s "In a Sentimental Mood" is rendered nearly unrecognizable on several levels. For one thing, Bhatia wrote the first 50 seconds out backwards and told pianist Chris Pattishall, saxophonist Stephen Riley, and trumpeter Riley Mulherkar to play its abbreviated parts "really delicately and quietly." After a few attempts, Bhatia reversed the trio's rough takes and slowed them down to quarter speed, resulting in Ellington’s original melody crawling forward at a tectonic pace while the ensemble’s manipulated performances ooze out backwards.
“At quarter speed, everything is under a magnifying glass—the struggle of the horn players’ lungs to sustain each note, the way that sound reflects within the cavity of the piano, the subtle communication in every gesture,” Bhatia says of the way he manipulates sound during the recording process. “What were passing moments of tension become long enough to induce hallucinations, while the moments of release stretch into sites for something transcendent.”
It’s a shimmering, haunting composition that bears more resemblance to the cloudy ambient cuts of William Basinski than Blue Note’s back catalogue. But Duke Ellington’s prominence on the album is no accident: Standards presents a version of jazz once again propelled by the possibilities of orchestration, where an artist’s voice has gradually exploded into an entire world of sound.
Bhatia’s committedly experimental orientation may also seem at odds with his choice of collaborators for this EP including Pattishall and the three-time GRAMMY-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant: erudite, virtuosic acoustic instrumentalists who are largely venerated by the jazz orthodoxy. But there’s an unlikely depth to the history and common ground uniting them that dismantles this false dichotomy, making Standards Vol. 1Bhatia’s most provocative, forward-looking output yet.
Bhatia will be headlining a release show for the EP next week on Wednesday, February 5 at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust. All upcoming tour dates are listed below.
2/5 – Brooklyn, NY – National Sawdust
4/3 – London, UK – Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre
4/4 – The Hague, Netherlands – Rewire Festival 2020