It is never a good thing when a recording arrives and the first line of the press release refers to it as "Genre Defying". I always think that is like when you go on a blind date and your date is said to have a "good personality", but she would, in reality, frighten the dog if he got a glimpse. So it was with some trepidation that I played the debut recording by AYVA records musician Richie Barshay, Homework. The result? Imagine if you will that you are standing at the foot of an enormous dam. As you look up you see the first little trickle of water coming over the top, then you hear a rumble from deep within the dam. Before you know it there is a roar and a powerful cascade of water rushes over you and sweeps you off of your feet. You tumble end over end, first twisting this way then that , breathless you are finally dropped off at the shore, heart racing, gasping for air and aware of the great joy that comes from being alive and very grateful for the ride. That will give you some idea of the feeling you will get after hearing this recording and being exposed to this young mans talent and vision.
Homework is very difficult to explain and even harder to categorize, but is that not what makes music great? The ability to expand boundaries and defy conventional wisdom that says you must make hits and nothing but hits. This album is a hit, don't get me wrong, just not in the traditional sense of the word. It makes up its own rules and then follows only some of them. Its creator himself believes in keeping things new and exciting, he likes to keep on stretching, never resting on the things you have done before. Of the thirteen tracks on here each is able to stand on its own and make its own private statement, but when put together they make a eclectic tapestry of sound that makes you stand up and listen and even , dare I say it, feel something. This is not cookie cutter music, this is the real thing played and composed by someone who knows how it is to be done, even at the age of 23.
Maybe if we had a word from the man himself, it would help to explain some of the different styles on this album. "Trinkle Tinkle" "Dan Blake and I used to have a group called the Tabla Underground; we regularly put jazz standards over tukras, these long Indian rhythmic compositions. And the Monk tune that fit the best with a tukra was 'Trinkle Tinkle'. That was really using the traditional instruments to explore a jazz context and really improvise and let loose."
This is not something that you can give a casual listen to, for each time you hear it, you are really hearing it anew. There are little things that seem to come foreword each time you start the disk, different rhythms and little beats that you somehow missed the first time through. One of my personal favorites on the album is "Peacock", it starts slow with this low almost guttural sound that the beat seems to build upon and grow from. Just when you seem to have it in your mind there is this male chorus that suddenly appears from no where and they add a new level then disappear, amazing stuff Homework.
Barshay says that the recording is about "exploring esthetic's than playing and blowing. I was going for more of a compositional thing , combing tabla and exploring esthetic's, rethinking where it is all coming from. As a drummer I am going for something brand new with the rhythms. It is more trying to sound original using old ideas". There is something for everyone here. Indian, Afro-Cuban, Be-Bop, straight ahead Jazz, and things that defy a label.
This is a stunning debut by a major new talent, do yourself a favor stand before the dam and let the water wash you away, you will so very glad you did. Homework by Richie Barshay on AYVA records is what good, no make that great , music is supposed to sound like.