By Bobby Reed | Published October 2019
On the bandstand, Zakir Hussain is an intense listener deeply committed to meaningful conversation. That’s true whether he’s performing with a septet edition of Crosscurrents or scaling the band down to a trio version with two other virtuoso musicians: bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Chris Potter. Hussain justifiably is referred to as the world’s most celebrated tabla player, and on his new trio album, Good Hope, he plays other percussion instruments, too: the kanjira, chanda and madal. In his awesomely skilled hands, these percussive tools expand his palette; after all, you can’t be a great conversationalist without supplying nuanced replies and colorful commentary.
All three musicians in this egalitarian trio are credited as co-producers of Good Hope. Hussain contributes two compositions to the album, while Holland and Potter each supply three tunes. The 66-minute program is an extended master class on musical conversations, with tracks like Hussain’s “J Bhai” characterized by plenty of sonic space surrounding the instruments, allowing listeners to fully appreciate the details (all carefully captured by recording engineer Chris Allen at the Sear Sound studios in New York).
Fans who discovered Hussain through his work in the band Sangam (with saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Eric Harland) will find much to like on Good Hope. Holland delivers melodic, authoritative bass lines and Potter frequently cuts loose, unfurling solos that gain momentum and muscle as they motor forward. When he switches to soprano saxophone on Holland’s 11-minute composition “Lucky Seven,” Potter illustrates the mixture of high-octane pyrotechnics and thoughtful subtlety that makes him such an acclaimed reedist. (Potter knows the tune well, having recorded it on the Dave Holland Quintet’s 2006 album, Critical Mass.) The bassist’s “Bedouin Trail” offers a smoldering vibe that complements the more fiery, uptempo material in the Good Hope program. The tenor and tabla dialogue on the title track is a joy to behold.
The Crosscurrents Trio’s European tour will include shows at the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Heidelberg, Germany (Oct. 23), the Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland (Nov. 1) and the London Jazz Festival (Nov. 17).