Damn, I forgot to breathe again. Sometimes I’ll realize it’s been a month since a proper gulp of O puffed my lower alveoli, then something like the new live album Sangam (ECM) by Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland lays hands on my corporeal meat bag, and systems resume operation.
Much praise to Lloyd, a true breather whose swirls of flute or sax demonstrate beyond geometry the difference between a circle and a cycle. He starts off on tárogató, a rich-toned wooden reed instrument he uses sometimes like a North African ghaita (to coax earthy between-note bends), and other times like a soprano sax (to pour forth Samadhic dances à la Coltrane). He’s pure love. But what really kick-starts the heart is Hussain, slapping the tablas as Harland accentuates on traps.
There’s something about tablas. The deepest of ’em applies at least as much impact to solar plexus as to ears, knocking out the bad air so you can suck in the good. The higher-pitched ones, meanwhile, pop around your head like bubbles, each note contoured. With all that going on, you can’t help but think loftier thoughts.
Hussain has soundtracked for Merchant and Bertolucci, played with John McLaughlin, co-written the opening theme for the ’96 Olympics. He’s from India, and now he’s here. Fighting pollution.
In a program of traditional and ?contemporary music, Zakir Hussain presents Masters of Percussion — Fazal Qureshi (tabla, kanjira), Tau?q Qureshi (percussion) and Bhavani Shankar (pakhawaj, dholak)—with Ustad Sultan Khan and the dancing drummers of Manipuri Jagoi Marup at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Thursday, May 4, at 8 p.m.; consult www.uclalive.org.
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Turning your music over to remixers can be like turning the environment over to oil men; that’s not what happened, though, with Omar Sosa’s new Mulatos Remix. The Cuban piano guy has been spreading himself around in more ways than one, touring worldwide like a permanent nomad for years behind albums that ranged from rootsy Afro-Latin to austere meditation to hip-hop crossover. Then he hit an attractive balance and grabbed a Grammy nom for 2004’s Mulatos, which set his quicksilvery keys amid chilled-out but warmly hued midtempos and kept that focus.
Despite the boomier bass, thuddier dance slant and electronic twists you’d expect, Remix hugs to a thoroughly Sosan aesthetic under Steve Argüelles’ production/mixing oversight and the loop/knob work of Marque Gilmore, DJ Basephunk, Doctor L and DJ Spinna. There’s melody; there’s space; the rhythms are never enslaved to the machine. Only halfway through the final cut do any monsters leap from behind the palm fronds, and by then you’re ready for a scare.
Sosa brings us a quartet that’s already logged serious stage time together: the great Pee Wee Ellis (James Brown, Van Morrison) on sax, longtime sidekick Childo Thomas on bass, and the aforementioned Gilmore (Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba) on drums. In a club, not a concert hall. It will groove.
Omar Sosa plays the Temple Bar on Saturday, April 29.