Most of the music that I’ve been drawn to and have had a strong emotional connection with has usually had a common thread. Times of struggle and difficulty in their creator’s lives, which leads to some inspired and evocative music. This seems like a pretty obvious correlation, but the process of reviewing music over the past months has given me the opportunity to speak to artists who are putting out music and confirm this theory. Niranjan Joshi is a pianist and passionate educator, whose latest release, The Placido Effect Vol 1, definitely points to the fact that he’s had to navigate more than his fair share of troubles over the years.
Niranjan mentions that he’s a shy person and that being seated at the piano makes communication far easier than if he were using words. Music and his instrument, have given him a voice with which to express his deeper thoughts and feelings. Track 1 ( Voice ) is a form of this expression. He says he’s been through some tough times but feels it’s important to put that out there and move on instead of keeping it inside. This EP catalogues his journey towards finding inner peace and Voice is one part of this journey.
You being You ( track 03 ) was actually a composition assignment from Niranjan’s time at Bill Evan’s Piano School, which eventually turned into a full song. I believe he used to perform this tune across jazz clubs in Paris with a trio called Paris meets Mumbai. Unfortunately the pandemic and subsequent lockdown meant that this song ( or any other on the EP ) couldn’t be recorded with drums and bass, and had to be done as a solo piece. But the song doesn’t require anything other than the piano to put across what Niranjan wants to say. The song is about him in the third person observing himself being himself, as he navigates through different layers to eventually accept who he truly is. Niranjan says he’s often guilty of overthinking and overanalyzing his own thoughts and actions, and coming to accept himself was an essential step on his road to finding peace. This propensity to overthink also extends into his musical world, which is why he now prefers to play with a far more improvisational approach, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of planning every detail of a performance.
In fact, the piano tapping section in the song actually came about during the 7th take in the studio, which he then decided to flesh out and turn into a full intro before recording the final version. Similarly, Me Being Me ( track 02 ) was also a completely improvised piece which Niranjan decided to record in the studio as a prefix to You Being You. While self acceptance and inner peace are themes in the album, the music itself has a plaintive quality which indicates struggle and sadness, and not just in the distant past. The making of this EP had it’s own unique set of challenges and hurdles. Niranjan spent considerable time and effort looking for the right grand piano to rent for the recording session, which had to be done in 2 days of studio time. One full day and the morning session on day two were needed just to get the piano in tune and mic’d up, leaving only a little over half a day to complete recording the music. Some health issues also made playing difficult during the recording process. But Niranjan managed not only to record emotive performances of his music, but also found time to squeeze in one take of an extra song right at the end of the session.
He chose to go with a cover of Milton Nascimento’s 1969 masterpiece, Vera Cruz. While the original is a fantastic song, something about this minimal cover really appeals to me and is my favourite track on the EP ( so much so that I had to ask Niranjan for a chord chart for some of his really interesting additions at the end ). His background as a classical pianist before venturing into jazz also evidently manifests as tasteful restraint throughout the EP which I enjoy. Although no expert, I do find some of the chord voicings to be a little straightforward and the triads basic, with a lot of potential for harmonic sophistication and interest left on the table. Nonetheless, Volume 1 of the Placido effect makes for some very interesting ( and calming ) listening and makes me look forward not only to checking out more of Niranjan’s work, but also hopefully playing some music with him in the not so distant future. I also hope it nudges listeners towards their own introspective journeys, which is Niranjan’s desired outcome for his audience.