Asha Puthli's USA Comeback
An Indian superstar who made her biggest splash in Europe in the 1970s with jazz, funk and soul records that forever changed the sound of dance music, Asha Puthli will be returning to the US concert stage for the first time in twenty five years to headline two exciting New York shows.
Puthli will appear at Central Park Summerstage on Sunday, August 13 with special guests Guru (featuring Solar and DJ Doo Wop) and Dewey Redman, and on Wednesday, September 13, she will headline Joe's Pub at New York's Public Theater. These shows will preview some of the new material likely to appear on Puthli's forthcoming as yet untitled jazz album, and audiences will also be treated to classic songs from her forthcoming greatest hits package entitled Space Talk: The Best of Asha Puthli.
Though Stateside success has largely eluded her, Bombay-born and raised Asha Puthli was championed early on in her career as a "genius" by John Hammond, the powerful impresario of Columbia Records who also discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He sent her to record what became perhaps her best known performance, the vocals on Ornette Coleman's Science Fiction album, for which she won DownBeat magazine's Critics Poll for Best Female Vocalist alongside Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ella Fitzgerald.
Though Puthli is rooted in jazz, she defines the word 'eclectic': she has also recorded funk, soul, disco, rock, Bollywood and other genres. She has ten major label solo albums under her belt (produced by the likes of Teo Macero of Miles Davis fame and Del Newman of Elton John fame) and numerous guest appearances including her work on Henry Threadgill's Easily Slip Into Another World. Trained in Indian classical singing, Robert Palmer of The New York Times once praised her voice as: "the sound of raga meets Aretha Franklin" and Times pop critic Jon Pareles calls her "a master performer."
Like other R&B pioneers of the 1970s including Roy Ayers and Patrice Rushen, Puthli's back catalogue has been recently rediscovered by legions of hip-hop and electronica fans. Artists like The Notorious B.I.G., P Diddy, Jay-Z, Diplo, Jermaine Dupri and The Neptunes have all sampled her songs. "It's an honor to be appreciated once again by the younger generation...I feel as if they really understand what my music is all about, " says Puthli.
2006 marks Puthli's busiest year yet. Besides returning to the stage, she also appears on Bill Laswell's new album, Asana OHM Shanti, along with Karsh Kale, Pharoah Sanders and Ustad Sultan Khan. Her new single, "Waiting for An Angel, " has just been released for global distribution by the Italian label Cinevox. "It's exciting to be finally getting all this recognition in the United States, " Puthli claims. "I had a very difficult time being accepted as an Indian woman doing jazz, funk and R&B in the early 1970s...now India is finally on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Things are changing and I'm glad."
This year Puthli will also release her best of collection Space Talk: The Best of Asha Puthli, The CBS Years including her classic hits "Spa
ce Talk" and "Right Down Here." Those songs pioneered what would later come to be known as the Eurosoul or Eurodisco sound. This year, Puthli's 1973 debut album, Asha Puthli, and her 1976 cult favorite The Devil Is Loose (called a "masterpiece" by are for the first time available on iTunes and other digital websites.
Puthli will headline Central Park Summerstage on August 13 with Dewey Redman, legendary jazz saxophonist and father to Joshua, and Guru, the hip-hop MC who pioneered the fusion of jazz and rap with his Jazzmattazz series. Also on the bill are electronic music pioneer DJ Spooky, glitch superstar Prefuse 73, and UK fusion drum 'n bass legend Talvin Singh. Central Park Summerstage is located at 65 Rumsey Playfield.
In concert, Puthli will perform songs likely to appear on her new album, a solo jazz project that has a strong Indian component: Indian jazz covers of standards by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane as well radically re-imagined jazz covers of material by Annie Lennox, Nirvana and Madonna. "It's my most adventurous project yet...I've always wanted to do a jazz album but never got the chance because record labels did not see a place for an Indian woman expressing herself musically, singing in English and incorporating her cultural traditions in the Western context...Now I have the opportunity and I'm grabbing it."
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