Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Tabla Beat Science: Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove

172

Tabla Beat Science: Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove

By

Sign in to view read count
Tabla Beat Science: Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove
Two years ago this thing called Tabla Beat Science came our way from the Bill Laswell crew, and Tala Matrix was a sure sign that Laswell had not lost it after a few severe disasters. It brought together four formidable tabla masters (and more) for a hypnotic wash of sound.

Bringing computer production together with Indian music was a great idea. But Laswell's long been a fan of mice, buttons, and knobs... so a live record from a similar group arrived this year with some trepidation.

The 2-CD set Live in San Francisco proves to the world that this unusual combination of East and West very much belongs in the realm of live performance. Before proceeding, a bit about ragas for the uninitiated: there are hundreds, and each one has a core rhythm that every player must respect. This is the tala, which can span time signatures into outer space (as well as the more usual 4/4, used here). Tabla player Zakir Hussain (who's gladly been very active lately in recording lately) takes the lead position in this group, which also includes Ustad Sultan Khan. Khan's message: never neglect the sarangi (a string instrument), which intertwines with the tabla like a snake to network the tala. Interestingly, his vocals often function in much the same way. The rest follows naturally: an extended improvised elaboration of melodic themes, each player pushing the others.

At moments this music is entirely south Asian, and at others it's more American. The concept of Tabla Beat Science is to blend the two sensibilities, in a way that makes them sound like they have been melting together for decades. At the center—and this is crucial—is improvisation. This feeling becomes perfectly clear on the second disc when "Gigi" Shibabaw joins Sultan Khan in a vocal interchange that trades American lyrics with devotional vocals, and it works. Now it must be said that Laswell did do some tinkering, but the source material comes through loud and clear. Tablas, sarangi, vocals—together with synthesizers, electronics, and turntables. The mood throughout the hour and half of Live in San Francisco remains one of elation: gentle, propulsive, and revelatory. It's hard to make that combination work, so hats off to the group. (We could have done with a little less of Laswell's robotic bass; and a better turntablist would have helped, but those flaws are small dots in the big picture.)

Track Listing

Taaruf; Sacred Channel; Nafeke; Ap Ke Baras; Magnetic Dub; Satellite (Show Me the Worth of the World); Tala Matrix; Trajic; Mangedegna; Devotional Dub.

Personnel

Zakir Hussain: tabla; Ustad Sultan Khan: vocals, sarangi; Eligayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw: vocals; Bill Laswell: bass, production; Karsh Kale: drums, tabla; DJ Disk: turntables; Midival Punditz: laptop/electronics; Fabian Alsultany: synthesizer.

Album information

Title: Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Axiom

Comments

Tags


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Elegy for Thelonious
Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble
Echolocation
Mendoza - Hoff - Revels
Maniera
Marco Baldini
Hackney Diamonds (2CD)
Rolling Stones

Popular

Jazz Hands
Bob James
Esengo
London Afrobeat Collective
Light Streams
John Donegan - The Irish Sextet

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.