The development of modal jazz – a compositional and improvisatory approach popularized by Miles Davis and John Coltrane and based upon the use of scales rather than standard chord progressions as harmonic framework – paralleled the increased visibility of Indian music in the west, and Coltrane in particular was heavily influenced by the flexibility he found within Eastern concepts. One of his most enduring pieces, the modal re-imagining of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” from the 1961 Atlantic album of the same name, shows an unmistakable Eastern inspiration. His 1965 session Om (released in 1968) is named after the sacred Hindu syllable for the infinite and contains chanting from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Coltrane befriended Ravi Shankar in the late 60s, naming his son Ravi in honor of the sitarist, and Coltrane’s widow, pianist/harpist Alice Coltrane, heavily featured Indian musicians and concepts in her own music. She titled her 1970 album Journey in Satchidananda in honor of guru Satchidananda Saraswati, of whom Coltrane was a devoted follower.
Hussain’s career was firmly established by the early 1970s on recordings by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and ex-Beatle George Harrison, and by mid-decade he had made foundational contributions to two of the greatest Indo-jazz fusion records of all time, Shakti (1976) from British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and Karuna Supreme (1975) featuring saxophonist John Handy and sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Shakti in particular stands as a high water mark of East-meets-West collaboration, a live document of the 1975 performance at Long Island’s Southampton College with Hussain, violinist L. Shankar, and percussionists Ramnad Raghavan and T.H. Vinayakaram that, despite being entirely acoustic, displays as much fiery interplay and bewilderingly telepathic ensemble playing as McLaughlin’s electrified 1970s fusion juggernaut, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Originating from
A number of young Indian-American musicians including pianist Vijay Iyer, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, drummer Sameer Gupta, and Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abassi have blurred cultural lines still further, and increasingly, Indian-born artists have devoted themselves to the intersection of jazz and Indian music. Guitarist Amit Chatterjee was a member of keyboardist, composer and Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul’s working band for over a decade, and has lent his searing guitar style to work with saxophonist David Liebman and pianist Michael Wolff. Pianist and composer Louiz Banks performed with John McLaughlin’s Indo-Jazz group Floating Point and contributed to producer Bob Belden’s expansive Miles From India project with a selection of Indian classical and jazz artists including Badal Roy. Mumbai-born vocalist Shankar Mahadevan is a renowned playback singer for Indian films, and worked with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain’s Shakti reunion, Remember Shakti.
Zakir Hussain, Amit Chatterjee Louiz Banks and Shankar Mahadevan perform with saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Eric Harland on October 1 and 2, and with Dave Holland and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta on October 3 and 4. Click here for more information.