Chris Potter, left, Zakir Hussain, Dave Holland. photo Edition The Crosscurrents Trio deliver a sound that never stops – the iconic Ustad Zakir Hussain (Shakti, Mickey Hart, Pharoah Sanders, Charles Lloyd), an inspiration on a new generation in the UK who include Sarathy Korwar, along with the In a Silent Way beating heart of global jazz bass great Dave Holland and the erstwhile Pat Metheny Unity band saxophone kingpin Chris Potter. In other words three superstar globally renowned players who remain at the top of their game.
But what do they achieve together? That is the key question. Let’s try to go a little way to discuss that. While on one level Good Hope is the latest of a number of organic collaborations that Holland has successfully developed over the years away from his obvious straightahead and freebop jazz interests, his work with flamenco star Pepe Habichuela was particularly compelling and magical, there is nothing gimmicky at all here in terms of concept. Far from it. While to some because this is thoughtful music that does not involve any grandstanding the overall sound, an acoustic not amazingly loud, nor atonal nor dare I say screaming effort, may lack a certain visceral bite: a caveat therefore to report at the risk of being heretical although certainly in terms of out there free-jazz factually true it is easy to state that the Good Hope collaboration seems quite contained.
Bearing, however in mind what the trio are actually doing, that train of thought misses the point. Another window opens if you shut that going nowhere of a perception down: The level of musicianship and total absorption on some eight tracks is all about fully enfolding and framing intertwining fully sprouted improvisation. The basic ‘tunes’ (there is nothing basic about them) are carefully concealed and while very melodic their tunefulness is not significant because this is a music of journeying and melody plays only one part.
There is a circularity to what they are as a collective doing and a tonal zone that Hussain establishes and curates. Like that other great jazz tabla player of our time Trilok Gurtu, Hussain knows how to shepherd his flock and the tabla is at the centre of everything here, Holland sometimes so skilled he disappears but the beat goes on as Potter commentates.
If you want a gem of a bass solo, then you have to search carefully (clue: it is somewhere on the marvel that is ‘Island Feeling’). There is a groove in a completely different sense to the way we usually experience it and above all Good Hope is about an invisibility of pulse and the pivoting, where the dance if you like changes foot, you have to listen hard for it: the raga resets every cycle or does it, part of the process of discovery.
Potter has infinite resources as an improviser and is reluctant to take the sax out of his mouth (like Coltrane in that respect to the exasperation of Miles Davis) but to be frank like listening to Coltrane you do not want Potter to stop. I found myself going ever deeper with each listen and yet never was completely blown away because the feeling of enlightenment comes in the silences after the music stops.
Highlights? The beginning of ‘Lucky 7,’ Hussain quietly building, creating, a figure, Holland you can hardly hear and then it all really begins. More than the sum of the considerable parts? Yes, but bear in mind at least a tiny bit the earlier grumbling about the freak-out quotient let’s call it discussed in the second paragraph above.
Live I guess people listen in awe struck attention and then roar their appreciation at the end. The listening experience at home in splendid isolation is different, your applause becomes contemplation unless you sit at hope clapping. Mindfulness instead – you got it, is achieved by Good Hope. The sound quality and presentation as is usually the case on an Edition release is excellent. If you can manage it budget wise get this on a double LP for that extra depth of sound and tactile quality, otherwise digital is fine but turn it up! SG. Out on the day of the centenary of Art Blakey’s birth as it happens, 11 October. •The Crosscurrents trio play Cadogan Hall within the EFG London Jazz Festival on 17 November