Needle Drop: Sriram Gopal, The Fourth Stream

The “third stream” is a term for musical compositions that embody a little bit of jazz and a little bit of classical according to Gunther Schuller. If your ear is tuned to that, DC-based percussionist Sriram Gopal invites you to lend one to The Fourth Stream.

The Fourth Stream is the debut album featuring DC-based jazz musicians under the helm of drummer Sriram Gopal. The album is not so much an exploration of varying musical styles as it is a fellowship of sounds. It is a collection of harmonies from various parts of the world that find common ground in this delightful piece of work.

The album is a fusion of crossover jazz, post-rock, bebop, classical, and South Asian devotional music. “Stream” might be the type of mystical composition found among Joe Harriott and John (not the pop singer) Mayer’s library of works, set in a framework designed for improvisation.

Tracks on the album include “Bapuji,” “Nadia,” “Bengali Dhun,” “Something Good,” “Why? Because I Can,” and “Almost Spring.” “Bapuji,” the album’s first track, is both argument and reconciliation among Bobby Muncy’s lounge-room sax against gatling-speed drum breaks. “Nadia” is a get-up-and-move tune with more than a few bars of EWI playfulness.

“Bengali Dhun” gives the album a little religion with some folksy vocals from Sameer Kadri. “Something Good” plays like an old standard, accented with Michael Bowie’s smooth bass-handling and romantic musical cues you might hear in Terence Blanchard’s film scores. Somewhere in the mix is a return of the bang-crash drum in “Why? Because I Can,” a solo sharing the vigor of Ginger Baker-Tony Allen duets. And finally “Almost Spring,” the sunrise tune that is so pleasant to the senses, you hear the drummer request “coffee” at the end of it.

Gopal, also the album’s producer, shines bright among DMV-based musicians. From Maryland, he spends his days in Washington working in environmental policy. He has appeared at Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, Twins Jazz, the DC Jazz Festival, and the recently closed Bohemian Caverns. In addition to his musical talents, he organizes a collective that employs art as a tool to build safe community spaces for local South Asians. Gopal, with The Fourth Stream band, performs regularly at Bossa Cafe in Adams Morgan.

The Fourth Stream was released May 3. The album launch is May 29 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C. You can purchase downloadable or physical formats online.

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