Fareed Haque + The Flat Earth Ensemble – Flat Planet – OwlStudios Owl00133, 75:38 ****1/2:
(Fareed Haque – guitars; David Harstman – saxophone and flute; Rob Clearfield – keyboards and piano; William Dellsfort – keyboards and piano; Alex Austin – bass; John Paul – bass; Cory Healey – drums; Jason Smart – drums; Subrata Bhattacharya – tabla; Jim Feist – tabla; Salar Nader – tabla; Indrajit Banerjee – sitar; Ganesh Kumar – kanjira; Kate Ramnath – Hindustani violin; Elihu Haque – djembe and voice)
Chicago-based guitarist Fareed Haque has appeared in a wide variety of settings since bursting on the scene in the late eighties. This outing features the guitarist/composer/leader in one of his better configurations, leading a talented and flexible group of musicians in a very appealing amalgamation of jazz, world music, and funk stylings.
The Flat Earth Ensemble, not to be confused with the Belgian-based Flat Earth Society, with whom they share few sensibilities, finds leader Haque perfecting the kind of music he’s been involved with for two decades. What makes this session stand out is the seamless melding of the three streams influencing the leader’s music: jazz, funk, and world music. This amalgamation is not that easy to pull off; but if done properly, as here, it yields some of the best instrumental music available. What makes this disc work where other attempts fall short is Haque’s grounding in and complete familiarity with the three styles he assays. No carpet-bagger or casual appropriator, Haque has immersed himself in these musics for more than twenty years. And it shows. There’s an effortless joi de vivre all over this outing. Bubbling tablas, virtuoso electro-acoustic guitar runs, funkified bass, and energetic propulsive drums drive this attractive music to dizzying heights. Citified vistas casually meld with Indian classical and southern-fried vibes to create almost a New Thing: hip, potent, instrumental music for the 21st century. Quite a feat.
The Four Corners Suite
– Jan P. Dennis