Nepali Times
Himalayan standard time

From the first notes of their new album, Jazz at Patan, it's obvious that Cadenza is a band with a common purpose. The album begins with the group setting down the theme from Weather Reports' classic jazz-fusion anthem, "Birdland". They then take turns soloing, starting with Manose Singh's ethereal bamboo flute. As they solo in turn, it's obvious that their playing is focused and professional, but neither flashy nor excessive. (And mercifully devoid of noodling.) After each takes a modest turn in the sun, they all come back, in unison, to the main theme.

Grooving on classic tracks like "Girl from Ipanema" and "In a Sentimental Mood," Cadenza has put together an album of standards that also draws on the group's roots in South Asia. Essentially a guitar band, Cadenza mixes in classical Indian instruments like the bamboo flute, sarod, israj and tabla to forge a unique sound. The result is recognisable and all at once new, an album packed with crowd pleasers and crammed full of innovation. Not bad for an ex-garage band from Darjeeling.

Take their version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," the first jazz recording to hit number one on the US pop charts. Cadenza takes Brubeck's obsessively precise composition and reinvents it as a rambling raga. The first time you hear the tabla take the theme, you really are in a different world.

Or their version of the oft-recorded "Girl from Ipanema." Once again the trills from Singh's bamboo flute steal the track, making what has become a clich?d melody into something fresh and new. And the ending, with its series of manic tempo changes, takes the listener all the way to bebop and back. For "Ipanema," singer Navin Chhetri adopts a speaking-singing style that could have turned out to be merely goofy. Fortunately, he has the talent-and good sense-to make it artful.

The band works similar magic on other tracks, including a dreamy and ethereal version of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and a snappy rendition of Brubeck's schizophrenic "Blue Rondo." Bassist Chi Thapa takes the lead on Miles Davis' minimalist "All Blues," while other classic tunes originally by Horace Silver and Antonio Carlos Jobim allow the whole band to shine. One original composition, an anarchic piece of fun titled "Patan," rounds out the album.

"Jazz at Patan" is an impressive collection, showcasing a tight and disciplined band both working together as a group and stretching out as individuals. Accomplished, varied and imaginative, the album pulls off a range of styles without seeming unruly. Not only that, Cadenza plays it cool, playing off one another's strengths without hiding the weaknesses (like the one ill-advised over-the-top drum solo). With this new recording, Cadenza has proven that they have something for everyone: the purist, the lounge lizard, the party girl, and the rest of us. That such unity of purpose were the rule in music around these parts, instead of the exception.

"Jazz at Patan" will be released at Cadenza's concert at the Patan Museum, 4 October, 6PM. Tickets are available at Upstairs Jazz Bar in Lazimpat, Patan Museum Caf? in Patan, and Summit Hotel on Kupondole.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)