By Kabir Sehgal
Every so often an artist comes along who makes you rethink not just music but the world in which we live. With his thoroughly well-crafted and genre-defying sounds, Todd Mosby invites us into his realm, one in which creativity knows no bounds or borders. Like a master chef hunting for the best ingredients to cook a delectable meal, maestro Mosby has no compunction selecting the most ripened ideas and seasoned artists to feature on Open Waters.
In this terrific production, you will indeed hear artistic elements that draw upon jazz, New Age, folk music, and even Indian sonic materials. That’s because this music isn’t just from Mosby but of him: For thirteen years, he studied classical North Indian music with his neighbor and guru-ji Ustadt Imrat Khan. By learning this craft, Mosby can elegantly fuse the polyrhythms and polyphony found in South Asia with the spontaneity of jazz, creating his own, fresh aesthetic. Of course, Mosby is a highly talented guitarist, able to transform his creative ideas into richly rendered solos that sparkle throughout his album.
For his second album, Open Waters, Mosby turned his attention to the fictional island world of Atlantis, first evoked by Plato’s treatises. Mosby was taken by this story as a child, and he often found himself gazing at dolphins in the ocean or swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. What’s more, this project is the second installment of his trilogy compilation that is based on the earth, water, and air. Indeed, Open Waters picks up from where his first album Eagle Mountain leaves off, as an opus not to just to another physical plane but a spiritual one, as well.
Hewing closing to his theme, Mosby named most of the tracks after nautical ideas or elements. The title track “Open Waters” is especially alluring, beginning with deft and delightful guitar line and the enchanting wordless and evocative vocals of Lola Hennecki. “I wanted this track to feel like venturing out into the open waters in a sailboat,” Mosby says. Indeed, Premik R. Tubbs’ wind synth provides the tune both ballast and buoyancy, giving the listener a sense that he or she is part of the crew, on this musical, if not seafaring odyssey together. With the propulsive drums and thick bass groove, this a journey we’re all happy to be on. No matter where we are headed – it’s going to sound good!
“Sea of Joanie” demonstrates Mosby’s finesse as a guitarist, as he demonstrates his finger-plucking dexterity, paired with forceful strumming. The instrument has become an extension of Mosby, as he’s able to convey the image of traveling in choppier waters. His “New Mexico” features the illustrious Fiona Joy who brings her hallmark artistry to the track, which is full of wonder and wonderment. Jeff Haynes provides percussion that gives the track added grain and texture.
“Atlantica” is named for the Mosby’s muse, the mythical land. He composition draws upon an ancient folk song, which incorporates a sixteen-beat cycle over a standard ghat-munja form. If that sounds complicated, it is! But worry not, as maestro Mosby glides through the piece effortlessly, showing how he can bring different forms and figures together in a composite whole. His piece “Dolphin Song” is a jubilant one, a reference to these amazing creatures who sometimes appear as messengers.
Alas, it’s Mosby who is the messenger, rather the ambassador on this album. He is a shining example of how one can take various ideas from sundry traditions, and make them mesh together. If this isn’t a testimony for what the world needs more, I don’t know what is. We need more Todd Mosby’s among us. A gorgeous album. Bravo!