Coming up on Friday, June 21st, at 9:30pm at The Royal Albert Arms, The TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and Jazz Winnipeg will be presenting the other-worldly sounds of the Juno Award winning band Avataar. 

Based in Toronto, Avataar mixes elements of modern Jazz, Indian classical music, Javanese gamelan and contemporary improvisation into a marvelous cocktail of sound that is at is times funky, at times ethereal and hypnotic and is completely cinematic in scope and breadth. 

Led by saxophone and flute player Sundar Viswana than, the band’s line up consists of vocalist Laura Swankey, tabla player Ravi Naimpally, guitarist Michael Occhipinti, bassist Rich Brown and drummer Max Senitt. All these musicians using their talents to create melodic layers of sound that will leave the listener transfixed and fully engaged 

Avataar are very much an east meets west project. Sundar Viswanathan was born in India and incorporates these eastern sounds into his own compositions, but as he says, the band is really a conduit for his music. As he explains, “The thing about a band like this is that everyone comes with their own influences and their own history musically... I see the players interpreting my music through their own filter...we are all based in jazz foundations, apart from Ravi [Naimpally] who is a master of North Indian classical music...the way the music comes out is really based on the players.” 

The result of these mixed influences is a wonderfully entertaining musical kaleidoscope of fusion jazz, funk, South Asian, and Latin American sounds. The melodies Viswanathan writes are typically long and beautiful, and often presented in unison by two voices, whether it be saxophone and guitar, or as is very often the case, saxophone and voice, “I love the blend it creates when you combine saxophone or other instruments with the vocals,” says Viswanathan. 

All the musicians in Avataar or topflight musicians who create a soundscape that will take the listener on a voyage. Opportunities to see Avataar live are a treat because the band can open things up for solos and really take the concertgoer down a musically interesting path. As Viswanathan says, “Hopefully we’ll take our listeners on a journey, emotionally and musically, because the music means something to me and the band and hopefully that will be brought across to the listeners.” 

This is going to be a stellar show. A perfect way to end a work week.  

Avataar performs this Friday, June 21st at 9:30pm at The Royal Albert Arms.  

For more details visit Jazz Winnipeg’s website.