[ARC, 2011]

There’s good reason this album has been given the red carpet treatment by its label. What else do you do with such an amazing conglomeration of musical ideas other than spread the word far and wide? On the one hand there are moments of serene beauty, and on the other, complex, writhing, swirling rhythms from what seem like every angle and whole new dimensions. Can rhythms have textures? A thousand different ones? I swear these do, although I suppose the textures technically arise from the percussion instruments, which may not be quite infinitely varied, but they’re close to it.

As implied, the get-up-and-dance excitement of the intricate beats has a gorgeous counterbalance, namely the music’s North African/Middle East/Indian context, a bracing sweet and sour flavor that provides the artistic consistency. And the fact that it all works so well should come as no surprise considering the formidable talents involved. The renowned Hossam Ramzy himself has made a career of productive collaborations (including with Led Zeppelin), and here he’s done himself proud in gathering a handful of his most creative peers from the realms of jazz, worldbeat, film scores, and rock.

Decades past, when “supergroups” were the rage, a certain suspicion accompanied any new such effort: was it an ego thing? a marketing ploy? or more to the point: would anything worthwhile come of it? No problems with Rock the Tabla. It was obviously carefully planned and surely dependent on a big budget, but it’s noticeably unpretentious all the same, as implied by titles such as “Bluesy Flusey,” “Billy Dancing” and the bonus track “This could lead to dancing.” As for worthwhile results, the disc holds just over 53 minutes of stunning successes. This is a richly endowed musical tour de force, one of 2011’s major releases.