photo: Purpleganesh

Natraj melds the classical music of India, traditional music from West Africa, and contemporary jazz to create its own unique and infectious style. Hard-driving African grooves and graceful Indian ragas meet in the band’s expansive jazz conception. Selected as Boston’s Best Jazz Band by the Improper Bostonian and nominated Best World Music Act in the Boston Music Awards, Natraj captivates and excites audiences with exotic textures, accessible melodies, and rhythmic energy.

Natraj has delighted listeners throughout the United States, Canada, India, and West Africa since 1987. Appearances include India’s JazzYatra and Prayojana International Music Festival; Ghana’s PANAFEST; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; the Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph, Canada; and The Boston Globe Jazz and Blues Festival. Natraj has performed with icons of Indian classical music including Kadri Gopalnath, Chitravina N. Ravikiran, Shashank, Ronu Majumdar, and Trichy Sankaran, as well as masters like Aditya Kalyanpur, V. K. Raman, Guitar Prasanna, and Amit Kavthekar.

Natraj has released several albums to acclaim in the international press and airplay worldwide. Numerous radio and TV appearances include featured segments on the American nationally syndicated program The World (PRI/BBC/WGBH-FM); Doordarshan (Indian national TV); Maine Things Considered (Maine Public Radio); South Asian Newsweek (CFMT-TV, Toronto); and Radio Mid-Day (Mumbai, India).

Natraj features raga-influenced soprano and sopranino saxophone of Phil Scarff; the virtuosity of violinist and violist Rohan Gregory; the tabla and multipercussion wizardry of Jerry Leake; the warm, nimble solidity of bassist Mike Rivard; and high-energy groove of drummer Bertram Lehmann.

“Natraj blends complex tempos and traditions with graceful, unforced virtuosity… a hypnotic, symbiotic tapestry.  Fusion is rarely this deep and exotic yet accessible… discover a new world here.” — Boston Globe

“Technical excellence and sensitive musicianship transcend national and cultural boundaries, and there is clearly an abundance of both on this recording… Compares favorably with Shakti…  Every performer displays both a melodic and technical flair… The performances on this album are everywhere excellent.” — Cadence

 “[This] Boston group doesn’t simply draw on Indian influences some of the time—it specializes in a seamless blend of jazz and Indian music… [Natraj] embraces both Western and Indian instruments…  delightfully unconventional.” — Jazziz 

“We heard the future of jazz… we heard the future of world music… a spellbinding tapestry… a jazz hybrid of celebration and reflection.” — Times of India

“East meets West and South in the music of the Boston-based band Natraj.  The quintet plays contemporary jazz with intoxicating Indian influences and entrancing African rhythms, hypnotically combining instruments from the three regions into eerie and original music.” — WBUR-FM, Boston MA


Ragamala Paintings Alive!

Release Date: October 13, 2023
Catalog Number: BR8983
21st Century
Composed by Phil Scarff and performed by world-jazz ensemble Natraj, RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! shines a contemporary light on historic artwork from India. The members of Natraj individually and collectively bring a wealth of experience exploring the intersection of jazz and global musical traditions. Their stunning performance showcased in this release is wide ranging, deep, and accessible, while firmly rooted in the rich tapestry of Indian classical music. RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! is part of a larger multimedia work created in collaboration with Indian classical dancer Jayshree Bala Rajamani, incorporating dance, music, spoken word, and projected images. It brings to life historic ragamala paintings, with each painting representing one Indian classical raga or melodic framework. Inspired by Modest Mussorgsky and his iconic work, Pictures at an Exhibition, Scarff threads the suite together with musical “promenades” that represent the viewer entering and moving about an art gallery, with each theme anticipating a painting or set of paintings to come. Whether heard on its own or experienced as a full multimedia performance, RAGAMALA PAINTINGS ALIVE! takes listeners on a compelling contemporary journey that celebrates classic ragamala paintings from India.