Two years ago, tabla master Zakir Hussain assembled a sextet he called Crosscurrents, which brought together Indian and Western musicians to explore the jazz content of Bollywood film scores. Good Hope expands on that concept by boiling the group down to a trio, and shifting the focus from movie music to a more generalized approach.
As to how Dave Holland ended up with top billing on what started as Hussain’s project, one could either put it down merely to alphabetical-order-by-surname or note how central the bassist’s role is in defining the sound of this trio. Good Hope isn’t raga-jazz or East-Meets-West fusion; it’s a conversation between sensibilities, with Holland’s bass acting as the bridge between Hussain’s tablas and Chris Potter’s tenor.
“Ziandi,” the Potter tune that opens the album, is a case in point. It starts with Holland laying down a tuneful, riff-y line whose groove is quietly reinforced by a straight-four pattern from Hussain. As Potter’s tenor enters, Holland’s playing becomes contrapuntal, so it’s less like a bass behind sax than a pair of intertwining improvisations. Hussain follows his lead, echoing and sparking rhythmic elaborations within the melodic lines. The music definitely presents as jazz, but beyond that general ID the genre influences are as subtly blended as flavors in a stew, whether ratatouille or rogan josh.
Given the quality of the players, the music is frequently virtuosic, yet seldom in a showy way. In the title tune, for instance, there’s plenty of ferocious interplay, but the real jaw-dropper comes when they state the melody, and you realize that those poppy chords beneath Potter’s cheerful tenor are coming from Holland’s bass. Similarly, Hussain’s solo turn at the top of “Lucky Seven” finds him using harmonics and special hand techniques to make his tablas sound like bongos, agogo bells, and even kalimba. Yet it’s all done so quietly you may need to turn up the volume to fully appreciate its genius—and when was the last time you needed to crank a drum solo?
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