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Zakir Hussain

Last Friday October 23 was the Debut of Crosscurrents, Zakir Hussein's new project with the legendary Dave Holland on bass, Chris Potter on soprano and tenor, guitarist Sanjay Divecha, Darjeeling born Luis Banks on keys, his son Gino Banks on trap drums, and of course the genius of Zakir on tabla. Ganesh Rajagopalan guested on karnatic violin and vocals. It was music of the highest order. While Indian music's influence on the West is well documented, this superb fusion was slanted on the West's influence on Indian jazz and movie music. Holland, who played with Miles as a 21 year old on Bitches Brew, and brought his London roommate John McLaughlin to Miles, has played in more diverse settings than perhaps anyone in music save Zakir. From Conference of the Birds, with Tony Braxton, to his own straight ahead groups, to duets with flamenco legend Pepe Habuchuela, Holland is that rare genius who is convincing and riveting in any genre he chooses. Looking to both the drummer and Zakir for accent points (4/4 and 7/4 are child's play for Zakir. I couldn't count the rythyms superimposed on top) the band played with a cofidence that belied this was a first gig with a rehearsal or two. The mutual admiration, and attentiveness, was awe inspiring.
Zakir Hussein returned to SF Jazz for the second year of his residency - four nights. In truth, I should have gone to all four, but saw the Saturday performance, with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Dave Holland on bass, Sanjay Divecha on guitar, Louiz Banks on piano, Chris Potter on sax, and the other-worldy "The Voice" as Zakir introduced him, Shankar Mahadevan, on vocals. Zakir is one of the most gifted musicians in the world, in any genre, and this was one of the most spectacular performances I have ever heard. (Hearing his father Alla Rakha, with Ravi Shankar when I was 15, the first of many, many times, was another). The level of musicianship on stage is almost impossible to describe. Dave Holland, who first came to prominence with Miles (Silent Way/Bitches Brew then Conference of the Birds with Anthony Braxton and hundreds of important recordings, including a recent one with Pepe Habichuela) kept the whole ensemble anchored. Zakir has an obvious love for Vinnie's drumming - they both played with Marcus Miller at a Herbie gig last year. In truth there are not too many western drummers who could keep up with Zakir's superhuman speed and flow of ideas. Vinnie was having a ball; I don't think I've ever heard him overplay before, but it was fine, and I've never seen him smile so much. Trading fours with Zakir at one point (in 4/4) he actually dropped a beat from being so enthralled with what Zakir did with the prior 16 beats. Most of the tunes were in 4, with funky sambas being a nice groove everyone could wail on. There were a couple of 6/8 tunes, one 5/4 tune, and one tune by Zakir, PI ("dedicated to one of my mentors, John McLaughlin") that I couldn't quite figure out what it was in, possibly 7 1/2 if that exists? As with all of the world's best musicians, everyone listened intently. And in the tunes with Shankar Mahadevan's Carnatic microtonal vocals, with all the musicians accompanying him, a true new world music was born; East, West, and Divine.
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
Marcus Miller brought his band to Yoshi's last night in support of his Blue Note Records debut, Afrodeezia. The recording was inspired by his role as a Unesco Artist for Peace and spokesman for The Slave Route Project. His touring band consists of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, drummer Louis Cato, and Mino Cinelu, a delightful reunion for Marcus, as they both played with Miles. Mino was also one of my favorite (of many) Weather Report perusssionists. He adds both African and Brazillian flavors to Miller's bracing funk. "It was after visiting the House of Slaves on Gorée Island that I composed “Gorée,” explains Miller, referring to the powerful track featured on his previous album Renaissance. “Onstage I felt the need to say what I had been feeling in Senegal. I wanted people to understand that this tune spoke not only of the slave tragedy but, through the music especially, that these people who suddenly found themselves at the bottom of a ship's hold had discovered a way to survive, and were able in time to transform their distress into joy. Shortly after my trip to Gorée, UNESCO named me an Artist for Peace, and made me the spokesperson for the Slave Route Project. That was when I started thinking about Afrodeezia." The band played brilliantly under Marcus' direction; he played Goree on bass clarinet as the last tune of the regular set. Marcus is an artist I see whenever I can; a few months ago with Herbie Hancock and Zakir Hussain (!!!) and Vinnie Colaiuta at SF Jazz, and on my birthday a couple of years ago with Robben Ford and Joey DeFrancesco in a Miles tribute.
Saturday evening Zakir Hussein and guitarist Lionel Loueke played SF Jazz as part of Zakir's week-long residency. They first performed together last year in a fantastic Herbie Hancock gig that also included Vinnie Colaiuta and Marcus Miller. Zakir, of course, is one of the most accomplished musicians the world has ever known, from North Indian classical, to fusion with Shakti, to an endless stream of world music collaborations. Lionel, from Benin, is best known for his work with Herbie, and Terence Blanchard. Mother Africa wed Mother India in an extraordinary evening of music. Lionel is also a gifted vocalist, incorporating clicking sounds from Benin. One can hear echoes of Jerry Garcia, Pat Martino, and Jimmy Page in his playing. He used samplers and delays to create landscapes, propelled by Zakir's constant creativity. They were joined on some pieces by Rakesh Chaurasia on Bansuri flute, and Ganesh Rajagopalan on violin and vocals, and the music truly soared. I believe it was completely improvised, and their level of intuition was extraordinary. Hopefully there will be a recoding.
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