Featuring just seven songs, Silsila by Helen Anahita Wilson and Shahbaz Hussain is a South Asian jazz fusion album of dreams. With Wilson on piano and drones and Hussain providing tabla and vocals, we get an intense, frightening, sombre, interesting, beautiful, celebratory collection of songs crafted by a duo with an evident bond and noteworthy musicality. It would be wrong to categorize Silsila as background music, but it’s an album you’ll want to serve as the soundtrack to your day.
We begin our journey on Silsila with “Azar,” a fast-paced song that foreshadows what’s to come on the album: stunning piano, bubbly tabla, and improvisation you’d think was written. The opening track envelops listeners in fusion jazz thanks to the subtle yet crucial tabla and, of course, the encompassing piano that creates tension and intrigue.
The opening track also establishes a bit of the motivic transformation we’re treated to throughout Silsila. And though it may seem natural to experience that in an improvisation album of this calibre, Wilson and Hussain play their instruments so expertly, every musical feature is notable, further leading any sceptics to presume this music is documented somewhere on a sheet (though we know it’s not).
At the risk of mentioning Wilson’s piano too much, it must be said that the musician has clearly perfected the instrument. Each track on Silsila shows her technical ability, but two tracks in particular, “Barakaat” and “Faridah,” show she’s just as much an emotional player as a trained one – a true maestro.
Silsila peaks, so to speak, at “Incarnation II,” the album’s fourth and longest track. It describes to listeners their version of an incarnation, leading us to wonder if perhaps their experience hasn’t been as holy as you’d expect. 11 minutes have never passed by so quickly.
Sharing their blessings, joy, fear, and trauma through Silsila, Wilson and Hussain are consummate talents. Whether you’re a jazz aficionado or a novice to the genre, this album is worth hearing. If this duo is playing, you want to be listening.