Majid Khaliq: The Basilisk (2011)
There was once a school of thought that championed, zealot-like, the cause of the violin. To them there was no more perfect instrument than the four-stringed wonder that supports a fretless arm and offers infinite possibilities of melody; one that all but brought to life myriad human emotions via harmonic invention. Were this league of extraordinary gentlemen to convene today, and upon hearing Majid Khaliq bow as majestically as does on The Basilisk, they might be forced to revive their zealous beliefs. Khaliq is that rare artist who not only explores his wondrous instrument with unbridled genius and stark individuality, but also brings to life a human drama, which he captures through magical bowingsometimes in a string of single notes that cry and leap for joy, and at other times by playing couplets and triads that blur the lines between a smile and a tear.
Majid Khaliq's violin is so closely linked with the human experience that he seems to breathe through it and, in doing so, creates a unique voice that is both profane and spiritual. From his worldly, profane dimension comes the earthy expression of the blues. Here, Khaliq can be tender, almost sensual and caressing as he gives voice to the raw and gut-wrenching experience that are then entwined with the music that is created with dynamic tension turning the ugly side of human drama into a thing of beauty. This dimension of his playing is demonstrated by his expert handling of these paradigms on "Expectation" and on the remarkable ululations of "The Basilisk."
Khaliq's is a singular voice, steeped in the history of his music. Stuff Smith flows through him, as does Don "Sugar Cane" Harris and those who went before. But Khaliq is unique in voice and vocalization. He has masterly control over his touch and expression; he can wail and bellow within a single swing of the bow; and his lines are always fanciful, full of twists and turns that reveal new ideas at surprising points in time.
And this is what makes the other, spiritual dimension to his music so uplifting. When Khaliq approaches the metaphysical, as he does in "Mansa Khan Musa," "Inner Glimpse" or "The Truth," he turns his own musical explorations inwards, eschewing drama and relying, instead, on shorter, brooding phrases that rise and fall with the proverbial breath of lifeso close to the heartbeat that they seem to pronounce the music in the name of Divinity itself. All this comes together in his absolutely masterpiece version of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," which is both visceral and sophisticated, and touches the very soul with its elemental yearning.
Khaliq is brilliantly supported by his band, but his soul mate remains trumpeter Charles Porter, who plays brilliantly throughout, offering a perfect foil and holding up a mirror for the rare and all pervasive genius of Majid Khaliq.
Track Listing: The Basilisk; Expectation; O-Hime; Mansa Khan Musa; Inner Glimpse; Spirals; The Truth; Polka Dots and Moonbeams.
Personnel: Majid Khaliq: violin; Charles Porter: trumpet; Jeb Patton: piano (3, 5--8); Eric "ELEW" Lewis: piano (1, 2, 4); Ivan Taylor: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced