Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer with The Detroit Symphony Orchestra – The Melody of Rhythm

January 01, 1970

(Koch Records)


Banjoist Bela Fleck referred to The Melody Of Rhythm this way:
“This project feels like getting together with some brothers we hadn’t seen in
some time.” As casual as this account may sound, The Melody Of Rhythm is
anything but common. Master musicians Fleck, bassist Edgar Meyer, and tabla
player Zakir Hussain have recorded a strikingly ambitious and successful work
that combines Indian classical rhythms, folk-ish melodies, and improvisation.
Though the recording includes trio pieces, the main event is the three
movement, triple concerto “The Melody Of Rhythm” for banjo, bass, and tabla
with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by the great Leonard


A seemingly obvious predecessor to this trio would be John McLaughlin’s
Shakti. But there are also shared traits with jazz musicians Chick Corea and
Wayne Shorter’s works for orchestra. Combining a smaller combo with an
orchestra to create a long form piece incorporating improvisation takes huge
effort, skill, and vision. And none have been as successful and convincing as
“The Melody Of Rhythm.” Well… maybe Wayne Shorter.  


Though rhythm may be the central focus of the composition, there’s
enough beautiful melody and harmony to please most any listener. It’s an
amazingly accessible work considering the level of artistic achievement. The
rhythms and melodies are passed around from section to section, and player to
player, throughout the piece giving it a link to more traditional symphonic
writing (along with some other compositional techniques: rhythmic
diminution/augmentation, orchestration, etc…). But there’s also often an
impressionistic, modern feel to the music. Much of the orchestral accompaniment
acts as a darker, chromatic counterpoint to the more folk-ish, or traditionally
Indian, material. Particularly in the first movement, there’s a point where the
orchestra enters, accompanying the previously stated trio melody, and acts
similarly to Sonny Rollins’s masterful obfuscation of Coleman Hawkins’s
straight statement of the melody on their classic version of “All The Things
You Are” from Sonny Meets Hawk!. Beautiful. Two views of a secret.   


And on top of the wonderful writing and arranging, the three master
soloists are all given room to shine in improvised space and on written
material throughout the concerto. The climactic back and forth between the
orchestra and the trio toward the end of the third movement is maybe the most
exciting combination of improvised and written material with an orchestra ever
recorded. It’s enough to make any musician’s jaw drop and any music listener
stand up and cheer. Brilliant.     


Standout Tracks:
“Melody Of Rhythm,” “Bahar” JOHN DWORKIN  




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