Shakti Remember Shakti

The Shakti project often gets tagged with descriptors like “fusion” and “East meets West,” but “dialogue” is probably the best way to describe the music of Zakir Hussain (tabla), John McLaughlin (guitar) and T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram (ghatam). Their latest album represents different conversations between jazz and classical Indian music, as well as between the traditions of North and South India, the languages of rhythm and melody, and the aesthetics of folk and abstract music in general. Recorded live during their 1997 tour of the UK, the five tracks on Remember Shakti feature Hindustani flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia as a special guest. The first disc commences with a traditional duet between Hussain and Chaurasia on "Chandrakauns," follows with a high-spirited guitar solo from McLaughlin on "The Wish," and closes with the darkly, romantic mood of "Lotus Feet" with all four members in performance. The second disc centres around 60 minutes of improvisation aptly titled "Mukti" (translated as "freedom"). Although each of the solos are full of brilliance, nothing captivates like the dazzle of Hussain's fingers on the tabla. Without any drone or accompaniment behind him, he gives a performance that breaks with tradition and coalesces a multitude of percussive patterns together that beautifully explode a universe of rhythm under the ornamental tap of his hands. It is undeniably one of the best solos he has ever recorded. Ironically, the ensemble follows the climax with "Zakir," a sugary ballad that makes even the most tackiest of Bollywood numbers sound serious. A disappointing finale, but nevertheless, a healthy reminder that even the masters have their lighter side. (Verve)