How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Shakti: The Believer
The Believer is the follow up to "Shakti's" 1999, 2-CD reunion set, titled Remember Shakti which to some extent, was unexpectedly mellower than what the band was dishing out back in the 1970's. Although violinist L. Shankar is no longer with this latest rendition of the band, original member and tabla master Zakir Hussain joins guitarist John McLaughlin along with amazing electric mandolin virtuoso, U. Shrinivas and ghatam/kanjira/mridangam performer, V. Selvaganesh.
This new release features live material culled from a 1999 European tour, as the overall production is a tad more kinetic than what was presented on Remember Shakti. This is largely due to McLaughlin's often-fervent interaction with mandolin maestro U. Shrinivas, who frequently matches the extraordinarily fast McLaughlin note for note via rapid single note lines, augmented by an angular style brimming with arched voicings and East Indian modalities.
Throughout these six pieces, the band effortlessly whirls through blazing solos and unison choruses, in parallel with Hussain's maddening rhythmic pulses, alternating statements and some call and response melded with sonorous themes. Yet on the track titled, "Anna", McLaughlin tosses in an intriguing funk groove as the typical progressions of an East Indian raga intersect with Western harmonies and rhythms. The overall presentation makes for a most gratifying and often charming coalition of the musical spirits as The Believer instills some of the grit and fiery interplay witnessed on those magnificent and altogether groundbreaking 1970's "Shakti" LP's.
John McLaughlin; guitar: Zakir Hussain; tabla: U. Shrinivas; mandolin: V. Selvaganesh; kanjira, ghatam & mridangam
The Heart Of Things:Live In Paris
Live In Parisis the brand new release by John McLaughlin's "Heart Of Things", and while this group's 1997 studio effort was somewhat uninspiring, here McLaughlin and co reap the benefits of an exquisite recording and superb audio mix amid the musician's focused and zealous interplay. Perhaps the additions of percussionist Victor Williams and the replacement of keyboardist Jim Beard with Otmaro Ruiz have sparked renewed vigor into this group that also features world class drummer Dennis Chambers, saxophonist Gary Thomas and up and comer bassist, Matthew Garrison.
Essentially, the band conveys a vibrant and cohesive demeanor which is noticeable from the opening moments of "Seven Sisters", a piece that also appeared on the band's first recording. Here, McLaughlin, Thomas and Ruiz perform blazing unison choruses, counterbalanced by Williams' airy, world-groove rhythms and acute employment of timbre and nuance. Furthermore, Ruiz seems comfortable trading fours with the lead soloists while also providing textural soundscapes as the band displays much more synergy than what was exhibited on their first release. However, I often wish that McLaughlin would explore different tones or settings on his electric guitar, especially on Gary Thomas' composition, titled - "The Divide". On this piece, McLaughlin ventures off into an extended improvised solo while employing a frazzled, and unattractive EFX sound that detracts from the spirited momentum.
Drummer Dennis Chamber embarks on an extended solo flight during the piece dedicated to the late great drummer, Tony Williams simply titled, "Tony". - Chambers performs an extremely impressive homage to Williams, as he pursues monster rolls, polyrhythmic patterns and funk beats while keeping the flux going with his swift execution of the hi-hat cymbals.
Live In Pariscaptures this band in top form. - Through it all, there's an abundance of heated exchanges and calmly melodic interludes combined with a touch of dashing splendor and an enigmatic approach to the material.
John McLaughlin; electric guitars: Otmaro Ruiz; keyboards: Victor Williams; percussion: Gary Thomas; tenor and soprano saxophones: Matthew Garrison; bass guitars: Dennis Chambers; drums.