Avant Garde Jazz Artist Amirtha Kidambi Plays First In-Store Show at Torn Light Records’ New Location

The vocalist/composer and her band Elder Ones perform at the store on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton ahead of their new album release, ‘From Untruth’

Mar 18, 2019 at 3:24 pm

click to enlarge Elder Ones - Photo: Chris Weiss
Photo: Chris Weiss
Elder Ones
Vocalist Amirtha Kidambi is a captivating New York-based artist who uses her instrument in incredibly imaginative and unexpected ways. Her music is “Jazz” in spirit and tone — with a heavy streak of Indian music running throughout — but there is little conventional in the way she brings sounds together in her various projects, bending old-world traditions to her will and creating new colors and shapes in the process.

Kidambi’s current focus in on Elder Ones, her band with fellow accomplished musicians Matt Nelson (saxophone), Nick Dunston (bass) and drummer Max Jaffe. The group — which marks Kidambi’s debut as a bandleader — released its debut album, Holy Science, in 2016, drawing praise from The New York Times and a range of Jazz press outlets, among others.

On March 29, Elder Ones’ sophomore album, From Untruth, will be released by Northern Spy Records.

Based on Kidambi’s compositions but seemingly enlivened by the spontaneity of improvisation, Elder Ones’ material alternately entrances and provokes. There’s a natural, earthy musicality but also a spiritual dimension akin to two of Kidambi’s biggest influences: John and Alice Coltrane. The last beat of the new album’s “Dance of the Subaltern” is a vocal gasp, which is appropriate because the entire track feels like a manic breathing exercise. Starting out as a measured and even-paced drone, it then escalates into a kind of aural hyperventilation, with scatter-shoot drumming, harmonium and electronic noises painting the corners around Kidambi’s whirling vocal phrasing, which rotates between precise enunciations like “We will rise” and wordless abstractions that come off like angular, avant-garde scat singing.

It’s an exhilarating listen with a sense of internal profundity and an external urgency that’s reflective of the ideals of social justice behind much of it. Holy Science included a track dedicated to Eric Garner, the New York man whose death after a police officer put him in a chokehold was a flashpoint in the current protest movement against police brutality. According to the album description at amirthakidambi.bandcamp.com, From Untruth’s four tracks “(grapple) with issues of power, oppression, capitalism, colonialism, white supremacy, violence and the shifting nature of truth.”

Elder Ones’ local tour stop this Wednesday (March 20) marks the first live performance at Torn Light Records’ new location. The shop — which carries new and used vinyl, cassettes, CDs and more — moved from Bellevue, Kentucky to Ludlow Avenue in Clifton’s Gaslight District earlier this winter. There is a requested donation of $10 for the 7 p.m. show. Click here for more show info.