The first thing that strikes you about Samay is the intriguing combination of Western and Indian instruments: guitar, bass, saxophone, Tabla and Sarod. From the opening moments of this CD launch gig, it was clear a wonderful sense of communication existed: the five musicians frequently exchanged glances and pushed each other forward during solos.

In terms of genre, the band presents a mysterious blend of Indian music, jazz, Mediterranean flamenco, eastern folk and even a hint of reggae. It is the latest in a long chain of so-called “Indo-jazz” groups, which originated in the 1960s with such protagonists as John Mayer, Joe Harriott and, later, John McLaughlin. As well as drawing on this rich history, the multi-national musicians of Samay contribute shades of their own background into a culturally diverse melting pot of different styles.

Jesse Bannister on alto sax and Italian guitarist Giuliano Modarelli stood out as improvisers, with Tabla player Bhupinder Singh Chaggar providing exactly the right percussive backdrop – at times jaw-droppingly fast or subtle and persuasive, depending on the mood of the tune. There was no shortage of individual talent on display, but the evident emphasis on collective interaction meant no one could steal the limelight – an occasional drawback of jazz concerts.

Indo-jazz is enjoying a resurgence of interest on the London scene, with groups like Samay in the vanguard. Debut album “Songs For a Global Journey” represents a pleasingly unpredictable voyage through the myriad of influences that infuse this highly refreshing sound.

Published in London Tourdates, 8/8/08.