Shakti / John McLaughlin

Remember Shakti: The Believer

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When Eastern classical musicians and Western jazz or pop musicians get together to jam, the result are always heartwarming; two wildly disparate traditions coming together to make music is such an irresistible gesture of human unity and cross-cultural cooperation. What's not to love? Frankly, what's not to love is often the music itself, which all too frequently is long on multicultural good intentions and short on things like coherence, interest, and hooks. The intermittently mystical jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, who has been nursing an India jones for decades now, is hardly innocent of such offenses. But on The Believer, a live set featuring McLaughlin, electric mandolinist U. Shrinivas, kanjira and ghatam player V. Slevaganesh, and legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain, he delivers a gloriously tight, rhythmically thrilling program of original compositions (as well as one contribution each from Shrinivas and Hussain). The group is called Remember Shakti in reference to Shakti, the similarly configured band that McLaughlin co-led in the mid-'70s. If anything, his playing has grown more exciting than it was then; listening to him negotiate the thorny rhythmic changes of this music in unison with Shrinivas and to both of them bouncing off the complexly woven rhythmic patterns laid out by Hussain and Slevaganesh is not only impressive, but uplifting as well. Highlights include the downright funky "Anna" and Shrinivas' composition "Maya." Very highly recommended.

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