Zakir Hussain: Anisa
Zakir Hussain (tabla, percussion, voice)
Making Music (ECM 1349 831 544-2)
Composed by Zakir Hussain.
Recorded: Oslo, Norway, December 1986
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Making Music was Zakir Hussain's first solo release. It represented an important breakthrough in the world-jazz-fusion music scene. First, this was perhaps the first international fusion of its sort in which the bandleader was from the East. Until then, the vast majority of this hybrid of jazz and raga or Eastern modes had been performed by Westerner-led bands. You can go all the way back to Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, John Coltrane and Miles Davis to trace that history. Though Ravi Shankar recorded with Western musicians, his music followed the traditions of Indian classical music.
Second, Making Music was released by ECM. Founded in the late '60s, this German label at first released mostly jazz records, many of which had a distinct European feel that set them apart from mainstream jazz labels. Over time, this sound became a trademark. When Indian Hussain entered the studio, he was adding an Eastern element to this established ECM style. World music had been around in fits and starts for years, but when a major label like ECM got behind it, as they clearly did after Making Music, the genre received a great boost.
"Anisa" features three musicians from the world. Zakir Hussain is considered the greatest tabla player on earth. Englishman John McLaughlin is thought by many to be the best guitarist on earth. Norwegian Garbarek is also a world-renowned saxophonist. (The legendary flutist Hariprasad Chaurisia also appears on Making Music, but not on this cut.) Hussain's and McLaughlin's performance here is much different than their Shakti interplay of a decade earlier. More time is spent on space and texture. Dulcet chordal themes are developed. Indian music rules, if any, are relaxed. Above it all rises the ECM-ish tones of Garbarek's saxophone as he and McLaughlin play a pretty melody. Hussain contributes an energetic solo interspersed with Indian syllabic vocals. A brief, beautiful riff off the main melody suddenly appears, and vanishes just as quickly, bringing the proceedings to an abrupt but gentle landing.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky