Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Birthday Bow

Lakshminarayana Shankar -- better known as the violinist extraordinaire L. Shankar -- is 64 today, so I've been plotting which direction I should go in terms of a celebratory post. Should I put up an unissued, complete concert of the titanically talented Indian fusioneers Shakti? Nah, that's more John McLaughlin's imprimatur, even though Shankar shines and shines brightly in that band.
How about a Peter Gabriel concert where the birthday bow is sawing away? IMO one of the finest moments of L. Shankar is the PG non-LP track "Across the River," in which he is sort of the star. But again that's just side work for this guy, Frank Zappa, Gabriel, the list goes on. Since our friend Pino (in the chatbox to the right of these words) mentioned this birthday was coming up, I've been trying to figure what to post that would accurately reflect the magnitude of the musicianship of Shankar in the spotlight. Well, whaddaya know? It turns out I have just the thing.
When I watched this the first time, I was totally lost in it by the second tune. These ECM records from the 1980s where Jan Garbarek is the co-soloist were always among my favorites on that label, so a couple of years ago when I came across this, it put my jaw to the floor real quick fast.
There is little to say except the basic honest essence of it: this is as beautiful and as elegant as music gets. The playing of both L. Shankar and Garbarek isn't just technically astonishing or fluent or outright spectacular... it's a near-religious experience. Lemme tell you that Jan Garbarek blows his shoes and his socks off in this show, just barefoot ballet out there. It's so emotional yet so controlled, and seems to infiltrate the very soul of melody, what he's doing. And today's birthday person goes off with his usual sensual array of melodic outpourings, as well as getting into some crazy pizzicato plucking that sounds very guitarlike through the processing he's using. I've always thought of Shankar as sort of the stringed instrument equivalent of trumpet guru Jon Hassell, and here his tone is highly reminiscent of Hassell's on the contemporaneous (1985) ECM release Power Spot, translated of course to the violin. Beautiful playing from two colossal masters of their instruments here, folks, as if you needed to be told that.
All that said, here it is... it was recorded onto Super VHS tape in the mid-eighties off German television, so forgive it if it's a little long on the hiss side. Someday they'll rebroadcast it in HD and we can all die happy and fulfilled. Overall it's a great capture, with vivid colors digitized with care. I could watch this hour of power over and over again and I wouldn't be surprised if anyone who grabs it feels the same after a view or two. Plus you get Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain manning the percussion, two masters in their own right. You crazy ECM heads that read my page better get clicking down below, this one's for Pino and all of you.
L. Shankar * Jan Garbarek * Trilok Gurtu * Zakir Hussain
Deutsches Jazz Festival
Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks
Frankfurt, Germany
9.14.1984

 01 I Know
02 Watching You
03 Song For Everyone
04 Percussion Duet
05 Unknown
06 Paper Nut
07 Psychic Elephant

Total time: 1:00:06

L. Shankar - electric violin
Jan Garbarek - saxophones
Zakir Hussain - percussion
Trilok Gurtu - percussion

PAL DVD from master Super VHS tape
4.06 GB 
part one here
part two here
part three here
All right, enjoy this one cuz it's pretty darn enjoyable... if I ever found out this concert was to be officially released I might camp out in the doorway of the music store or something. And let's not forget that this day in 1950 we had a true treasure join us here on this rock, and we wish the maestro L. Shankar a very melodious and harmonious 64th anniversary of born-ness, with many many more to come. --J.