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Shankar Mahadevan

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.
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