Shweta Jhaveri: Anahita

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Intuition, www.songtone.com

Although such instrumental masters as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan long ago introduced classical Indian music to Western ears, Hindustani singers have not made as widespread a cultural crossover. On Anahita, Shweta Jhaveri, a native of Ahmedabad, India, and student of vocal master Pandit Jasraj, makes the characteristic serpentine pitch bends and microtonal slides between notes as accessible and soothing as clear water flowing over polished stones. Jhaveri's fourth recording under her own name, this unconventional East-West project was overseen by Northern California producer Lee Townsend, who recruited San Francisco Bay Area jazz musicians—violinist Jenny Scheinman, guitarist Will Bernard, bassist Bill Douglass, and drummer Jim Kassis—to accompany the singer's soulful tones. They act as a fluid, understated band, their sensitive playing merging naturally with the drones of Jhaveri's tamboura, the chimes of her autoharp, and the deep emotional resonance of her vocals. Inspired by the popular North Indian classical form known as drut khayal, the CD's six original songs capture moods of longing, contemplation, serenity, and joy in musical terms any listener can understand.