Sundar Viswanathan to headline next faculty concert

Sundar Viswanathan in performance
Sundar Viswanathan

Versatile performer, composer, international touring artist and York music Professor Sundar Viswanathan takes centre stage with the award-winning world music ensemble Jaffa Road in a signature concert on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7:30pm at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall on the Keele campus.

Sundar Vishwanathan, a musician and professor at York UniversitySundar Viswanathan

The show is the final performance in the Department of Music’s 2011-12 Faculty Concert Series.

Jaffa Road features some of Canada’s most exciting and innovative interpreters of inter-cultural music. Drawing easily and organically from the worlds of classical Arabic and Indian music, traditional Jewish songs, contemporary jazz, rock, pop and dub, the group creates a unique sonic landscape, melding acoustic and electronic, secular and sacred, ancient and modern music. “If Toronto had to pick one group to reflect the world music scene in that city, Jaffa Road would definitely be in the running,” said CBC Radio’s Garvia Bailey.

Well-known as both a vocalist and instrumentalist, Viswanathan plays sax and flute with Jaffa Road. He will be joined onstage by bandmates Aaron Lightstone (guitars, ud, saz, synthesizers), Aviva Chernick (vocals), Chris Gartner (bass) and Jeff Wilson (percussion). The group will offer an adventurous program of original compositions, including tracks from their award-winning debut recording and new material from their upcoming album.

Jaffa Road won the grand prize at the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and best world music artist at the Toronto Independent Music Awards in 2010. That same year, their first CD, Sunplace, was a Juno nominee for best world music recording and earned the number one spot on the CIUT (89.5 FM) world music chart.

The members of the jazz fusion ensemble Jaffa RoadJaffa Road group members with Viswanathan (far right)

In addition to performing with Jaffa Road, Viswanathan leads the Sundar Quartet, whose most recent CD, What A Dream I Had… features fresh interpretations of jazz standards and popular songs. “What a dream it is, just lie back and listen to the fantastic sound of Sundar,” said the Montreal Tribune.

Equally well-received was his previous release, Hope and Infinity, from another initiative, Sundar’s Induswest Project. The CD showcases original works integrating the harmonic framework of jazz with the rhythms, moods and lyricism of South Asian classical music. “Viswanathan swings with abandon, turning quick imaginative curves that blister and burn…[his] explorations of the two worlds give…cause to rejoice” said All.About.Jazz.

His third ensemble, Avataar, an evolution from Sundar’s Induswest Project, marries Hindustani raag and taal, hardbop jazz, Brazilian melody, electronica, Javanese gamelan and contemporary improvisation.

Viswanathan has appeared in clubs and at major festivals across Europe, South Africa and Japan. Closer to home, his performance credits include the Lincoln Center, the Count Basie Invitational Jazz Festival, and leading New York City jazz clubs such as the Blue Note and Birdland, and Toronto venues including Lula Lounge, Trane Studio, the Rex Hotel, Glenn Gould Studio and Harbourfront Centre. He has performed with such notable artists as Wynton Marsalis, the Grammy-nominated Charles Tolliver Big Band, Joe Lovano, Sun Ra Arkestra, Rez Abbasi, Kiran Ahluwalia, Tasa, Billy Hart, Jim McNeely, Jeanne Lee, Al Martino and Kenny Wheeler.

Viswanathan joined the professoriate inYork’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 2001. His teaching areas include jazz woodwind and saxophone performance, jazz theory and the music of Bollywood films.

Viswanathan’s Feb. 14 concert is the last of four events in the 2011-12 Faculty Concert Series, spotlighting faculty artists in the Music Department. Other featured performers this season were percussionist Trichy Sankaran, soprano Janet Obermeyer, and the violin-piano duo of Jacques Israelievitch and Christina Petrowska Quilico.

Tickets are $15, or $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact the Box Office at 416-736-5888.