Few working musicians can make
a living with just one steady gig, whether it's playing with a
band or in the studio. Those who pay the bills solely from their
artistic labors often have a laundry list of credits to their
name. Hopefully, though, they have that special project or two
that keeps their creative juices gushing and their spirits buoyant.
Satnam Ramgotra and Rodney Lee have collaborated with dozens of
lesser and greater name-branded acts, but their passion peaks
when they pair up in Alien Chatter. Ramgotra, a peripatetic percussionist,
and Lee, a consummate keyboard tickler, have created a genre-busting,
acoustic-electronic hybrid that melds tabla burble thwack, melodious
pianisms and deep-space programming on the duo's self-produced
Music for Aliens. Their shit's trippy, funked-up and jazzilicious,
laced with extra helpings of curry powder or double doses of chill-pill,
depending on which way their galactically informed muses sway
them. Alien Chatter reside at The Temple Bar for three consecutive
Mondays, providing ample opportunity to hear vestiges of the big
bang channeled through two of L.A.'s most cosmic groove voyagers.
The LA Weekly,
Gomez, The Groove Boutique, December, 2003
Behind this project are two very able and accomplished musicians: Rodney Lee (Piano, Synths, & Programming) and Satnam Ramgotra (Tabla, Drums, Percussion, Vocals, & Programming), who it would seem, crossed paths by accident, and that's just what happened as it turns out. Each has toured and done studio work for a slew of notable artists including Anastacia, Jody Watley, Terence Trent D'Arby, Beck, Sting, Seal, & Nikka Costa, among others. And both have had their music featured in national television programs and major motion pictures.
So how 'bout the music you ask?
Self described as "A sophisticated blend of original contemporary jazz piano, laced with pop, soul, R&B, and electronica elements, with a special emphasis on Indian classical tabla and percussion stylings, "Music For Aliens turns out to be an incredibly easy CD to listen to! I hadn't been sure what to expect with the combination of tabla and piano, but I was amazed to find just how well these two guys made things work. For you listeners out there who have Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Ellis Marsalis, George Winston, and the like in your collections, but haven't quite made the leap to all things Indian, this may just be the disc to tickle your ivory tandoori stylee.
Ensconced within the framework of an electronica background, the tabla and piano (supported by a cast of synths, vocals, percussion, & drums), symbiose in the foreground to make you wonder why this hasn't been done before?! Neither instrument overpowers, but complement and enhance each other instead. Rodney's keys provide the basis for melody, while Satnam's tablas & drums partner alongside to support and propel the music forward, and at times taking lead. The piano is reminiscent of Cecil Taylor, Keith Jarrett, & Lyle Mays, unified by an R&B context that is extremely refreshing. The tabla, while based in classical Indian music, is liberated to act as its own entity, irrespective of genre, yet fully suited to all as the songs clearly demonstrate.
I'll dispense with the track by track breakdown in favor of simply extolling to you to get this CD and become one with the Aliens. Power to the people...that's the point!
Biz, Ethno Techno.Com, November, 2003
Gaurav, Asian Vibrations.Com, September, 2003
Dr. Bombay, Bombay Beat Science, October, 2003
FlavorPill LA, October, 2003
"... Indian Jazz fusions,
there's not that many of them that work. The first really great
one was John McLaughlin's group, Shakti. But there haven't been
that many of them that also bring in the electronic element, and
that's what sort of sets these guys apart and [what] I think makes
them really worth checking out."
Bob Duskis from Six Degrees Records in a feature on NPR's "The Savvy Traveler", March, 2004