Saturday Night in Bombay

COMPOSERS: Hussain,John Mclaughlin,Shiva Sharma,Srinivas
LABELS: Verve
ALBUM TITLE: Remember Shakti
PERFORMER: John McLaughlin (g), Zakir Hussain (tabla), U Srinivas (mandolin), V Selvaganesh (perc), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 014 164-2

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John McLaughlin is one of the most comprehensively gifted and influential of all jazz guitarists, and he’s also schooled in the Indian classical tradition. After his second highly electric Mahavishnu Orchestra disbanded in 1975, McLaughlin formed the acoustic group Shakti (Hindi for creative intelligence, beauty, power) with Zakir Hussain, violinist L Shankar and Raghavan (mridangam).

It made a big impact internationally, recorded three albums and broke up in 1978. McLaughlin began reviving Shakti for occasional concerts in the late Nineties, and this current live album, recorded in December 2000, is a thrilling peak in the group’s artistic endeavours.

The first and shortest of the four pieces, ‘Luki’, written by McLaughlin, is an exhilarating surprise because, as soon as the drone appears, he introduces a fast guitar riff, before Shakti and guests explode into a marvellously compressed performance with internal dialogues, catchy motifs, fine ebb and flow, great climaxes of vocal and instrumental virtuosity – all in less than six minutes.

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There are also excellent pieces by Hussain and Srinivas, but the longest and most absorbing performance is ‘Shringer’, written by Shiva Sharma, a guest who plays santur, a stringed instrument resembling a dulcimer. The piece runs the gamut of emotion from quiet meditation with some tender melodies to euphoric virtuoso climaxes, but nothing is forced and the music always emerges organically. Shakti’s artistry is awesome.