Crosscurrents Takes Harmony To New Heights

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Monday October 23, 2017

From The San Francisco Chronicle

Crosscurrents takes harmony to new heights at SFJazz
By: David Wiegand

Holland beamed like a kid onstage, especially in an extended post-intermission musical “conversation” with Zakir Hussain, the unrivaled tabla master with whom Holland created Crosscurrents a few years ago to explore the links between Indian classical music and jazz. Holland’s fingers worked the strings of his standup as Hussain’s hands flew across the skins of his instruments, coaxing an entire symphony of sound that was as melodic as it was percussive. It was only one of an evening full of transcending moments at SFJazz.

Hussain and Holland led a supergroup of Indian and jazz musicians in the second of four performances over the weekend at Miner Auditorium: Louiz Banks on keyboards, his son, Gino Banks, on drums, Chris Potter on saxophones, Ganesh Rajagopalan on violin and vocals, and Sanjay Divecha on guitar.

This was fusion, to a thrilling extent, yet throughout the 2½-hour set, the sovereignty of individual sound and style remained distinct. The sweetly fluid whine of Rajagopalan’s violin evoked images of the steamy air of the subcontinent, at the same time Potter’s tenor sax was growling classic jazz just a few feet away.

The concert opened with a pair of entrancing numbers by Louiz Banks, “Shadows” and “The Dove,” combining to create the perfect first step in the evening’s musical journey. You heard jazz, you heard tabla, you heard violin and, on the second number, plaintive tones of classical Indian vocals, courtesy of Rajagopalan. But the concert was never “just” a two-way conversation between jazz and Indian music. Listen closely, and you catch suggestions of Celtic percussion, then perhaps a bit of Brazilian bossa, slithering into salsa.

The philosophy at the heart of Crosscurrents and Saturday’s concert is the celebration of music as a universal and uniting force, without sacrificing the individuality of ethnic and musical history and tradition.

Each member of the septet had several moments in the spotlight, none more than Potter, who more than fulfilled the promise in the title of his own staccato-laced composition, “The Hope,” with a nearly pyrotechnic display of virtuosity. Later, he switched gears, blowing beautifully ephemeral flute-like sounds in an adaptation of a Southern India composition about Lord Krishna’s divine flute (bansuri) being spirited away, depriving the beasts and the trees of its enchanting sounds.

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