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Remember Shakti: Saturday Night in Bombay

Walter Kolosky By

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Last year's Saturday Night in Bombay suffers from a bit of confusion in the liner notes. They refer to a "certain Friday Night in San Francisco in 1978." That certain Friday night Jacques Denis was talking about, The Guitar Trio's Friday Night in San Francisco , actually took place in 1980. Liner note mistakes like that are bothersome, since there's no reason not to get things right on the record. Of course, Denis was attempting to link the earlier album's spirit with that from Remember Shakti's Saturday Night in Bombay. It is an apt comparison. Guitar fans in San Francisco couldn't wait to hear the trio of John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paco DeLucia perform its first concert. In 2000, the atmosphere must have been very similar in Bombay, as many of India's most revered musicians would appear for two nights as special guest stars performing with Remember Shakti.

These all-star outings always run the risk of over-polite hosts. When people purchase a Remember Shakti album, they want to hear Remember Shakti. They don't want to hear the group sitting back and letting its guests steal the show. Although Remember Shakti does take a little bit too much of a backseat on santur player Shiv Kurmar Sharma's "Shringar," the music culled from these two nights represents some of the best East-meets-West Indo-jazz fusion ever produced.

The opening cut, "Luki," sounds particularly impressive to Western ears. According to people who were at the concert, this is a truncated version of a piece that went on for many more minutes. McLaughlin has never written any tune quite like this. Featuring many players and the vocals of Shankar Mahadevan, this tune is the perfect marriage of Indian, Western jazz and World music. It cries out bliss!

The amazing electric mandolin of U. Shrinivas is somewhat underutilized on SNIB. But his playing is a dominant and transcending force on the piece he penned, "Giriraj Sudha." The percussion support of the great Zakir Hussain and V. Selvaganesh has been the backbone of Remember Shakti, and its importance becomes even more apparent on SNIB. Rhythm is the common language for all of the players. And of course, McLaughlin makes his electric guitar sing the songs of the world.

While those of us in the Western World listen to and enjoy this music based upon our own paradigms of musical structure, Remember Shakti has become a wildly popular band in India. And this is not just because the band has some Indian musicians. The widespread acclaim is due to the fact that within the framework of the music, its form and structure, the musicians follow traditional Indian precepts. Indians claim this is very rare thing for an internationally integrated band to do. And in fact, most Western ears don't even hear it. We are missing out. McLaughlin has spent years studying Indian Classical music. It has paid off in a big way.

Remember Shakti will be remembered for its continuation of the pioneering musical and social spirit of the original Shakti, as well as the virtuosity of its musicians and the unique combination of electric instruments with Indian rhythms. The beautifully recorded and Grammy-nominated Saturday Night in Bombay represents the culmination of decades of hard work and study. It is the most enjoyable and accessible music of its kind. If one were to indulge in measurement of international jazz, Saturday Night in Bombay would be the yardstick.

Related link: John McLaughlin Reviews @ All About Jazz .


Track Listing: Luki; Shringar; Giriraj Sudha; Bell'Alla.

Personnel: John McLaughlin: guitar; Zakir Hussain: tabla; U. Shrinivas: mandolin; V. Selvaganesh: percussion; Shankar Mahadeven: vocals; Debeshish: Hindustani slide guitar; Sivamani: drums and percussion; Bhavani Shankar: dholak; Roshen Ali: dholak; Aziz: dholak; Taufiq Qureshi: def; Shiv Kumar Sharma: guitar; A.K. Pallanivel: tavil.

Title: Saturday Night in Bombay | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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