Trilok Gurtu – God Is A Drummer
(Jazzline Records/ Delta Music Media. D77075. Review by Fiona Mactaggart.)
At the age of 68, Indian master percussionist and composer Trilok Gurtu presents this, his 20th album as leader. But God Is A Drummer, to this listener’s mind, is different from previous albums: it is a survey of – and a thank you to – his major influences, and given the great number and heterogeneity of the musical heavy-weights he has collaborated with over the last 50 years, it is interesting to find out which of them he sees as having shaped his music the most. Unsurprisingly, it turns out the influences are wide-ranging, from jazz and jazz-fusion household names such as Tony Williams, Joe Zawinul and Nana Vasconcelos, to ‘world music’ luminaries including his mother, Indian classical vocalist Shobha Gurtu.
Although there are eleven tracks, four of these consist of brief bursts of Gurtu’s tabla, as if to emphasise the importance of Indian Classical music’s role in making links between different musical cultures (and perhaps by extension, his own role in this). Gurtu has an array of top-notch Hamburg-based musicians (listed below) supporting him, together with guests, Indian singer Kaplana Patowary, Turkish singer Zara and Turkish violinist Emre Meralli. Additionally, several of the tracks are further enriched by the German, Western classical Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie.
The spirit of Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul is evident throughout, perhaps especially in both Obrigado (thank you) and Holy Mess, the latter enhanced by some stunning, unison instrumental / vocal konnakol. As is usual with Gurtu, he alights on something beautiful, but briefly, and all to soon moves on. Another stand-out track is Madre, with its gorgeous opening and closing percussion and lovely, gentle vocals.
For this particular listener however, one particularly joyful track stands out and seems almost to impel one to dance: the tribute to Nana Vasconcelos and Brazilian roots music, Indranella.
Dedicated to his late spiritual guru, Sri Ranjit Maharaj, this album is also a gift to those of us who have enjoyed over the years Gurtu’s virtuosity, versatility and perhaps most of all, his commitment to bridge-building between musical cultures.
Trilok Gurtu – drums, percussion, bass programming
Frederik Koster – trumpet
Sabri Tulug Tirpan – keyboards
Jonathan Cuniado – electric bass
Christophe Schweizer – trombone
Kaplana Patowary – vocals
Zara – vocals
Emre Meralli – violin Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie conducted by Wolf Kerschek
God Is A Drummer was released on CD and LP on 7 February 2020.
Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh, plays drums and writes about music on Scottish Jazz Space.