Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain & Chris Potter Trio – Montreal Jazz Festival

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I heard Zakir Hussain for the first time when I listened to the album “A Handful of Beauty” by the fusion band Shakti about 15 years ago. In it, I got introduced to the magnificence of Indian music, of its instrument, of its music scale and of its influence in one of the greatest guitar players I have ever listened to, John McLaughlin. The album itself deserves its own post but if you can dedicate some time to it go and give it a look.

The reputation of the tabla as a primary instrument and an ambassador for Indian music all over the world is all thanks to the efforts and virtuosity of Zakir Hussain in this instrument since he was a child prodigy at the age of 3.

Accompanying him on stage were other two great musicians, Dave Holland, bass player extraordinaire who has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Chick Corea and Bill Frisell, and Chris Potter, a saxophone player that since he came into the scene in 1992 has been holding the baton from other great sax players of the past such as Joe Henderson and Coleman Hawkins.

Previous to the start of the show, Zakir Hussain was honored with the Antonio Carlos Jobim prize for his contribution and importance to world music. Hussain highlighted how this journey has been possible to all the musicians he has played with, who had made him who he is and without who he would be just another tabla player.

The concert itself showed without a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t just another tabla player and that many of those musicians he played with were also where they are because of having been blessed by Zakir’s humbleness, prodigy, and rhythm.

Song after song jazz and tabla met, danced and delighted everyone in the venue while adding to the mix Latin rhythms and good old blues. It was inconceivable to me that any of the songs could work outside of this trio. Their unspoken communication and harmony brought to this temple of music that I like to call the cathedral-like the Maison Symphonique so much heart, soul, and power.

Almost everyone around seemed to be hypnotized and utterly enamored with the original compositions that the three legends present on stage were playing for us. Even though the site was full, the show felt quite intimate and also in a couple of songs gave me total goosebumps and awe.

As for the venue itself, during the Montreal Jazz Festival I had the opportunity to experience several concert halls and theaters one after the other and was able to compare the atmosphere, sound quality and comfort of them all, and I must say that la Maison Symphonique is the best location so far. It very comfortable, great view from any seat in the house, perfect acoustics and, as I mentioned above, a cathedral-like atmosphere that evokes the biggest reverence and respect to whoever is playing at its stage. The only detail that does not allow it to be perfect is the disruptive exit signs, which break the ambience and the mood that’s being transmitted on stage.

Finally, I hope all three of them come again with their Crosscurrents project which includes other Indian musicians and presents the east-west mutual influence in their music. Or maybe Hussain can convince, the now retired, John McLaughlin to do one last Shakti tour.

Review – Ricardo D Flores

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