Even if you know John Coltrane's composition "Giant Steps" backward and forward, you still might not recognize the version on Deepak Ram's Steps. That's because this legendary jazz standard is performed on an Indian bansuri flute and set inside a samba arrangement. The Coltrane classic "Naima" gets a misty, sun-and-shadows rainforest feel via Jamey Haddad's tropical percussion and Vic Juris' meditative acoustic guitar. The story goes that Ram got the idea for recording Steps after a journalist told him that the bansuri might be fine for classical Indian music, but it was far too limited an instrument for performing a complex jazz piece like "Giant Steps." Not only did Ram prove him wrong, but he also demonstrates a variety of moods here, like giving Gershwin's "Summertime" a dreamy coffee house feel. Miles Davis' "All Blues" and the Rodgers and Hart classic, "My Funny Valentine," get a more conventional small combo arrangement, with Juris' electric guitar lending a John Pizzarelli flavor. But what sets these and other pieces apart is Ram's lilting, microtonal approach, which adds an enticing complexity that's reminiscent of Indian ragas and ghazals. -- Bob Tarte

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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