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Beaten up, down, all around: Global Drum Project

An opinionated take on the week in live music, Oct. 17-23

Beaten up, down, all around: Global Drum Project

Gig of the week

Global Drum Project
(O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, College of St. Catherine, Friday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m., $33 and $27)
Back in the Pleistocene Era when I was a high-schooler besotted on arena-rock shows, I soon decided that the best times to make a break for the bathroom and the concession stand were during the ballads and the drum solos. Not even legendary time-keepers such as Ginger Baker of Cream or The Who’s Keith Moon could deter me from my appointed rounds.

Then the Grateful Dead came to town and the rhythmic weave from the band’s dual drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman literally stopped me in my tracks. This wasn’t a drum solo, or even drum duet: This was a magic carpet-bombing of beats, spun into tapestry.

Since that time, Hart has only broadened the hues and fattened the ply on those tapestries. His “Diga Rhythm Band” record, released in 1976 with a striking silver cover and a global array of percussionists, was “world music” fusion long before anyone labeled the genre, so it was poetic justice that his “Planet Drum” disc was awarded the first-ever Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991.

The latest incarnation in Hart’s ongoing rhythmic odyssey, Global Drum Project, provides further enlightenment on the expanse of textures and cultural philosophies that come with striking a drum. Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, a former member of John McLaughlin’s Shakti, has been Hart’s co-conspirator since the days of Diga. Puerto Rican conguero Giovanni Hidalgo has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri, and other titans of Latin jazz and salsa. And Nigerian Sikiru Adepoju, a disciple of the late Babatunde Olatunji (another longtime Hart cohort), rounds out the quartet on talking drum. This blend of Africa, North America, Asia and the Caribbean includes the staccato ricochet of Hussain’s tabla and Hildalgo’s conga colliding over Adepoju’s rubbery groove while Hart adds drum fills and samples of vocals and various special effects. Drums are generally limited to being the spice of music. Hart and his Global Drum Project radically subvert that status quo, transforming the seasoning into an entire repast.

Here’s an audio intro to the group and a video from last year’s concert at Orchestra Hall:

Mystery man

(Orpheum Theater, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m., $59.50-$125)
The August issue of Spin magazine contained a riveting story about the malaise that has engulfed the leading lights of the neo-soul movement of the 1990s, including D’Angelo, Lauren Hill and Maxwell, all of whom have been internally besieged and writer’s-blocked by the discrepancy between their commercial/sexual appeal and their artistic muse and spiritual purpose.

For those who forget, the honeyed coo, gauzy arrangements and romantic loyalty (he was straight up about his belief in monogamy) on Maxwell’s “Urban Hang Suite” and “Embyra” records, combined with his reedy build and big Afro, made him the matchstick that lit the torch for millions of ladies a decade ago. Now, after popping up for the BET tribute to Al Green this summer, the dude’s out on his first tour in six years. The ‘fro is gone and the long-delayed “Black Summer’s Night” (rumored to be triple-disc length) remains unreleased, but the new stuff on his MySpace page retains that vintage Maxwell glow, complete with cat’s feet beats and sensitively seductive turns of phrase. In short, for old Maxwell fans, this belated return engagement is probably worth the gamble.

Mood indigo and a happier blue

Bettye LaVette
(Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, Sunday and Monday, Oct. 19-20, $32 at 7 p.m. and $22 at 9:30 p.m.)
Few singers convey despair with emotions as visceral and nuanced as the ones Bettye LaVette dredges from her soul and her memories in performance onstage. That talent is LaVette’s karmic reward for wandering in the commercial wilderness for nearly 40 years after scoring a hit single as a teenager. A vocalist who holds her audiences extra-tight, she has formed an extraordinary bond with Dakota patrons since her annual visits to the club began almost directly in sync with her remarkable career comeback five years ago.

Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame Ceremony and Jam
(Minneapolis Eagles Club, Sunday, Oct. 19, Induction ceremony at 6:30 p.m.)
The fledgling Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society will hold its second annual Hall of Fame ceremony, featuring the induction of Willie Murphy as a performer and the classic Koerner, Ray and Glover disc, “Blues, Rags and Hollers,” as the recording. Both are slam-dunk choices, of course, but I selfishly care less about the honorifics than about the blues jam that will follow. Murphy’s resume is chock-full of amazing tidbits (did you know he produced Bonnie Raitt’s first album?) and the guy has been the leading beacon of West Bank music forever, but all that tends to obscure how well he’s playing right now. You can catch him at Palmer’s, or other nights at the Eagles Club, but there is liable to be some extra special sauce ladled into this performance.

Overrated and a concession

Ben Folds
(Myth, Friday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m., $30)
Does the music world really need a poor man’s Dave Matthews?

TV On The Radio
(First Avenue, Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 20 (+18) at 8 p.m. and 21 (all ages) at 6 p.m., $20)
People whose opinion I respect kept raving about TV On The Radio. I kept hearing this oh-so-fab, post-modern, racially integrated group from Brooklyn as being too trendy to long tolerate, and much less than the sum of their admittedly interesting moments. Until their latest, “Dear Science,” which feels like a welcome splash into the mainstream without losing the more attractive edges of their arty impulses. So, make room on the bandwagon, because I’m climbing aboard.

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