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It’s Guests Galore on Sandeep Chowta’s ‘Relaxmen, Vol. 3’

‘Relaxmen, Vol. 3’ picks up where the composer’s instrumental project with guitarist Tony Das left off

Arpito Gope Sep 02, 2021

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Sandeep Chowta.

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Re-Laxman Relaxmen, Vol. 3

★★★½

Namma Music

Re-Laxman started in 2020 when Sandeep Chowta collaborated with Peepal Tree guitarist Tony Das to bring out a bundle of sweet melodies and guitar grooves  compilation. The second one featured three incredible bass players Anthony Crawford, Lucass Mattos and Seb Read. 

The first edition was arguably Sandeep’s stab at a true collaboration, considering all the previous releases were his own music, barring the album titled Venu with celebrated flautist H.S. Venugopal.

Last August, with the country in the grip of the first wave of the pandemic, Sandeep and his longtime friend Das decided to create Re-Laxman. The front cover of the Re-Laxman, Vol. 1 was a picture Sandeep had taken in Mangaluru airport, of people waiting in the lounge. The whole idea was to write music which people can plug into anytime, fed by uncomplicated song structures and lounge-y and simple melodies.

The third release follows Re-Laxman, Vol. 2, which released in November last year and Re-Laxman in June 2020. It’s a testament to the incredible speed with which Sandeep is writing music.

Once I had joked with Sandeep that he should call the series Re-Axemen as it’s all about guitars, but the beauty is that there’s so much besides the guitar and that is probably what put the first Re-Laxman release through to the second round of selection for a Grammy nomination. 

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Relaxmen, Vol. 3 features six new tracks and two play-along versions of “Tic Tac Toe” and “Something’s Cooking” for people to jam with.

This edition is a fuller album in all senses. While the first record honed in on Tony’s guitar and supplied simple melodies, this time Sandeep has brought in six guitarists, one for each track. Plus, he’s used more sounds to fill the spaces in the tracks. However the lounge-y, smooth and relaxed pace is not compromised. 

The first track, “Tic Tac Toe,” is a nice smooth tune featuring Rodrigo Gouveia, a Brazilian jazz guitarist, Seb Read on the bass and Sandeep on the keys.  

The second track, “Under the Same Sky,” is an instant favorite; it features the incredible Abhay Nayampalli rendering a beautiful haunting tune in his inimitable Carnatic guitar style. Venezuelan jazz pianist Santiago Bosch comes in with some handsome support and Hosea Butler joins on drums. It makes the track a truly lovely arrangement with Sandeep’s subtle keyboard providing some wholesome textures. “Tangled” brings back memories of Chuck Loeb as San Diego guitarist Alex Ciavarelli sounds amazing on the track and Nayampalli makes a small but strong and surprisingly aggressive cameo.

Das delivers well on “Reflections,” sharing composing duties with Chowta. Seasoned as he may be with about two decades of experience, Das is an understated rock guitarist. Clean and comfortable in his space, the guitarist delivers a nice one with “Reflections,” featuring Mexico-bred keyboardist Shalom Gallegos and drummer King Robinson Jr. comes in on “Get Over It.”

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If there’s a complaint to raise with Relaxmen, Vol. 3 it’s that not all tracks include live drums, but it could be overlooked when you come across a clutter-breaking song like “Get Over It,” featuring guitarist John Connearn and accordion by Anatole Muster. The songwriting is extremely identifiable with Sandeep’s writing style and the touch of the accordion is a surprising move. 

The last song on the album “Something’s Cooking” features one of Bengaluru’s seasoned musicians, guitarist Alwyn Fernandes who has worked extensively with Sandeep in the past in movie scores and collaborations. Chilean pianist Koke Duran adds jazz dexterity while Alwyn’s rock-leaning style opens up a new dimension to “Something’s Cooking.”

Vikram Ghatpande has been masterful in production and I feel the production values on this particular edition of Re-Laxman are even better than the first two outings. 

As has been the case with previous collaborative releases, Relaxmen, Vol. 3 introduces us to many new musicians from across the world. Sandeep Chowta has made the effort to bring together so many different souls tied together by a common passion for music.

Listen to ‘Relaxmen, Vol. 3’ below. Stream on more platforms here.

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