Ending their previous effort with the track "Alla" on TBSI in which Ustad Zakir Hussain played solo tabla, we begin the next chapter of this live recording at San Francisco's Stern Grove with the leader performing a tabla solo accompanied by sarangi maestro, Ustad Sultan Khan. Khan begins the lehera with a composition in Raga Bhimpalasi (at least that's what it sounds like to me :) set to an 8 beat rhythmic cycle. Indian classical music is at the heart of the inspiration for this project, and there can be no finer example than these two masters sharing their heritage on "Taaruf." Building in tempo gradually, each takes turns exploring melody and percussion before ending in a thrilling jhala set to 16 beat teentaal, with the sarangi dropping off just as Zakir's flurry segues into "Sacred Channel."
Kicking in with Karsh Kale on drums, & Bill Laswell on bass, the boyz you've come to know and love deliver on the goods launching into overdrive! Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw joins the gentlemen next with "Nafeken" invoking the song with an Amharic mantra of sorts. Sultan Khan lends his earthy vocals to the mix in a meeting of East and West across the Arabian Sea.
The Punditz cue up "Ap Ke Baras" setting off the Asian Massive with layers upon layers of elektronik majik. Sultan comes back on "Magnetic Dub" with a simple motif on the sarangi that expands into a huge tapestry of sound. Laswell's bass slithers and slides like a jurassic heartbeat. All parties take brushstrokes to the canvas, placing their unique individual stamps to this mother of a masala jam.
After a brief intermission, CD two begins with the majestic "Satellite (Show Me the Worth of the World)" as Gigi graces the stage to cheers from the audience. This is my first time hearing her sing in English and may I just say that she's much more enjoyable than all these Latinas foraying into the mainstream. Khan's vocal taans and sargams are reminiscent of jazz scatting along the way.
Local SF talent DJ Disk guests on "Tala Matrix" with some nitro-infused scratching on the turntables. And listen for Bill's flanged out fuzzed up bass towards the end, which conjures Hendrix. They got it all on this CD!
The Punditz return with the ominous "Trajic" followed by a great reinterpretation of Gigi's "Mengedegna" which features beautiful sarangi work that sounds like the deserts of Rajasthan. After what seems like a minute of standing O's the party continues the theme with the finale of "Devotional Dub" as Sultan Khan mirrors his earlier playing with impassioned vocals.
The crowd obviously had a fantastic time- wish I had been there. Here's holding out for the DVD and perhaps TBS III...?