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CD Review

The world at their fingers

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November 16, 2007

Zakir Hussain and Mickey Hart have been partners in rhythmic exploration since the early 1970s, when the Grateful Dead drummer recruited the Bombay-raised tabla master to play on his 1972 Dead side project, "Rolling Thunder." The collaboration really took flight in 1991 when their album "Planet Drum" topped Billboard's world-music chart for six months and won the first Grammy presented in the best world-music album category.

Drawing on a globe-spanning array of rhythmic traditions, the ensemble brought the drum into the foreground with a mesmerizing repertoire of densely textured pieces. On their latest album, "Global Drum Project" (Shout! Factory), Hussain and Hart once again join forces with the extraordinary Puerto Rican conguero Giovanni Hidalgo and Nigerian talking-drum expert Sikiru Adepoju.

Picking up where "Planet Drum" left off, they create a series of spacious percussion soundscapes abetted by the canny use of electronics. The opening track, "Baba," sets the album's ancient-into-the-future agenda by incorporating an invocation from the late drum legend Babatunde Olatunji.

From the stripped-down gamelan groove of "Funky Zena" to the shaker-driven workout "Dances With Wood," each piece takes on a distinctive personality based as much on the interlocking timbres of the beautifully recorded instruments as on the rhythmic cycles themselves.

ANDREW GILBERT

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