LJF 2019: Cross Currents Trio

Zakir Hussain at North Sea Jazz Festival in 2013. Photo © Brian Payne

Given the critical acclaim for their latest album – Good Hope – and the success of their performance at 2017’s EFG London Jazz Festival, it is no surprise that the Cross Current Trio’s show at Cadogan Hall this year was completely sold out.

With Chris Potter on saxophones, revered Hindustani classical musician Zakir Hussain on tablas and Dave Holland on bass – a true jazz giant both musically and in height – the Cross Currents Trio presents a unique line-up. Of course, the absence of a piano in the rhythm section is not unusual for Holland; several of his projects over the years have followed this pattern. Nor is the marriage between jazz and Indian classical music anything new, given the rich tradition of the two styles going hand-in-hand in their mutual use of improvisation. Nevertheless, the format of the trio is such that each musician stands out with striking clarity, while never forgetting the importance of the ensemble as a whole.

Hussain eased the audience in with an opening tabla solo on Lucky Seven beginning with the sparse percussive raps before progressing in speed and timbre, joined by his fellow musicians. The deep connection running through the trio is evident not just in their playing, but also in the way each musician showered praise on the others between performances. The term “maestro” was used in abundance. Frequent improvisational duets between Holland and Hussain were marked by smiles and nods to each other as musical ideas were relayed and shared. Potter, though he could be observed stepping back into the shadows during these intimate moments between the two older musicians, was not neglected by the trio. He can truly be called a master of both soprano and tenor saxophone, demonstrated particularly in his own composition Triple Cross.

The gig was a showcase of improvisational prowess from everyone involved, in contemplative pieces such as Mazad as well as in the more fun and energetic passages. Hussain provoked laughs of delight from the audience with playful phrases taken from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme. The standing ovation at the end of all this was well deserved. A show whose sold-out status was wholly justified. 

Cross Currents Trio, Cadogan Hall, London, 17 November 2019 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival