Saturday Night in Bombay
Another concert recording from guitarist John McLaughlin's second-generation Indo-jazz band, Remember Shakti, and the difference here is the locale and the augmented lineup. Last year's The Believer documented the quartet in action-original Shakti member Zakir Hussain on tablas, V. Selvaganesh on ghatam/kanjira, U. Shrinivas on electric mandolin and McLaughlin playing a hollow-body electric. Saturday Night in Bombay finds the festival favorites in India and playing for a Shakti Festival.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, the band invites an army of special guests on stage for the program, which includes four long tunes by four different composers, who all turn up on stage. A few guests make positive contributions. Debashish Bhattacharya on the Hindustani slide guitar adds elements of the blues to the high-fusion proceedings. But since the heart of McLaughlin's Shakti projects has been the guitarist's intense rhythmic interaction with the percussionists, most of the guests tend to stand at the sidelines or get in the way.
Vocalist Shankar Mahadevan dominates "Giriraj Sudha." After a leisurely atmospheric introduction, McLaughlin and the core band save the longest track, "Shringar," for themselves and its the best thing on the disc-nearly 27 minutes of lithe improvisation, sparring and melodic invention. McLaughlin and company may take their time, but once they get into it, they build tremendous excitement.