Trilok Gurtu Biography

30 October 1951, Bombay, India. Coming from a musical family, Gurtu played tablas from the age of six and studied with Ahmed Jan Thirakwa. In 1965 he formed a percussion group with his brother, and credits John Coltrane’s Plays The Blues with inspiring him to play jazz. Seated on the floor to play he has incorporated devices such as dipping resonating gongs in water (a technique invented by John Cage), always with an immaculate sense of timing and sonority. In 1973 he toured Europe with an Indian crossover group and stayed in Italy until 1976, when he relocated to New York and started a long-term association with alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Gurtu also performed with trumpeter Don Cherry and bass player Barre Phillips. Teamed with Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos he toured Europe and recorded for the German ECM Records label, becoming part of a select set of musicians who fuse global music into a tastefully understated whole.

After Collin Walcott’s death in 1984, Gurtu took his place in Oregon, playing with the ensemble until the early 90s. In 1988 he toured with John McLaughlin and recorded Usfret with his mother Shobha Gurtu, herself an acclaimed vocalist in India. The following year they toured together. Living Magic in 1991 featured Vasconcelos and some stellar saxophone from Jan Garbarek. Gurtu’s career really blossomed in the 90s as he established a loyal following through his solo work on CMP. Crazy Saints, the title of his 1993 album featured Pat Metheny and Joe Zawinul and became the title of his regular band. Gurtu’s rising star was confirmed when he became the No. 1 Percussionist in the 1994 and 1995 DownBeat polls. Neneh Cherry guested on 1998’s Kathak, while Angelique Kidjo, Oumou Sangaré and Zap Mama’s Sabine Kabongo shared the vocal duties on 2000’s African Fantasy. Both the latter and the following year’s Beat Of Love fused African rhythms with modern Indian pop to striking effect. In 2004, Gurtu teamed up with DJ Robert Miles on the excellent Miles_Gurtu.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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