Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pat Martino - 1997 "Fire Dance"

Fire Dance is an East-meets-West fusion recording that was the brainchild of Peter Block (flute) and Habib Khan (sitar). Block recruited Pat Martino for this session after hearing his work on The Maker and Baiyina, making him a logical choice. Martino is mostly relegated to a sideman/group member role, but he is given plenty of space. While Block, Khan, tabla player Zakir Hussain, and violinist Ilya Rayzman sound perfectly at home here, Martino doesn't always sound comfortable. That is not to suggest this isn't a worthy effort, as the session as a whole is very rewarding. In fact, coupled with Martino's adventures on All Sides Now, this recording proved that he was not content to stay within any sort of comfort zone. While the results do not match the inspired work John McLaughlin did with Shakti, they are comparable to his much-beloved and influential Baiyina.

After finishing All Sides Now for Blue Note in 1997, the concept album of pairings with musicians of various compatability, Pat Martino headed off to San Francisco to record this intriguing east-meeting-west project. In a sense, it has a collaborative spirit that extends the earlier project, but here, the musicians cross freely over cultural boundaries, mainly in the direction of Indian classical tradition. The session is led by flutist Peter Block and sitarist Habib Khan, who provide the compositions-improvisational vehicles more than anything-and are joined by violinist Ilya Rayzman and the ever-robust Zakir Hussain on tabla. But it is Martino who provides the greatest excitement here, partly because of the unorthodoxy of the electric guitar in this setting, and partly because he burns, pure and simple. He serves a clean-but-ferocious style that is inimitably his own, and yet which adapts itself to other modes of musical thinking.

Far more adventurous is Firedance, a 1997 recording in which Martino guests with an organic quintet that includes the stunning tabla player Zakar Hussain and sitarist Hibab Khan. In a set of inspired performances, Martino rises to the challenge of fusing his bittersweet style with the rapturous, intense skills and songs of these Indian masters. Weaving his notes around the others with pure selflessness, he seems more intent on listening and learning than leading. He adds funky riffs to the lustrous "Sacred River" and thoughtful, Wes-like chords and inspired picking to the shimmering "Forgiveness."

To start off I am not very versed in traditional Indian music at all, but this album changed that, it gave me my first (aware) exposure to the mastery of Zakir Hussain and I have since delved deeper. I'm already a huge Pat Martino fan and I actually got this from an acquaintance giving away his old cd's, and this is quite possibly my favorite among them. Considering he gave me a giant box of cd's including the majority of the works of Joe Pass and Pat Martino, that's saying something. This album is a perfect merger between the surprisingly similar worlds of modern jazz and traditional Indian music. Many times Pat will barely be audible, just letting the band go its course, each member a phenomenal player sewing this epic yarn of expression.

FireDance presents a pleasing and well balanced blend of international starts who are masters of their own respective instruments, including the well known jazz name of Pat Martino and the tabla superstar, none other than Ustad Zakir Hussain.. Block on the flute is quite noteworthy as well.. the tracks present themselves as frolicking, fanciful light pieces with each instrumentalist taking his turn on the improvisational wheel, amidst the constant rhythmic wizardry of Zakir, who is the highlight of the disc as far as this listner is concerned.. if you are looking for the intense, hard core improvisational jams of Shakti, you will not really find them here - this cd is less intense (improvisationally) and caters to the listener whose ear is perhaps not accustomed to an international blend.. however, an essential piece for the indian classical music-jazz fusion collection.

Track listing

01. Firedance
02. Amrita
03. Sacred River
04. Garland for a Poet
05. Summer Stars
06. Avatar
07. Forgiveness
08. Zeeshan
09. A Season in Solitude
10. Song for Yogam

Personnel:

Pat Martino - Guitar
Peter Block - Alto and Bass Flutes
Habib Khan - Sitar
Ilya Rayzman - Violin
Zakir Hussain - Tabla, Percussion 

1 comment:

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