By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — SFJAZZ celebrates the long-running Bay Area cultural institution’s Fifth Anniversary Season at the state-of-the-art SFJAZZ Center this week with a full slate of events highlighted by the SFJAZZ Gala 2017 paying tribute to tabla maestro Zakir Hussain Wednesday night.

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The recipient of the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award, Hussain has been at the forefront of groundbreaking jazz and global sounds since the 1970s. The son of legendary tabla player Alla Rakha and a child prodigy, Hussain was touring professionally before he even entered his teens. He would travel to the U.S. in 1969 to teach music at the University of Washington and eventually at the Ali Akbar College of Music in Marin.

It was there Hussain would cross paths with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, joining him on his 1972 solo album Rolling Thunder and commencing a collaborative partnership that would span decades in the groups the Diga Rhythm Band (which later contributed to the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now) and Planet Drum. The tabla player would also work with noted jazz guitarist John McLaughlin in his acoustic global fusion ensemble Shakti that also featured Indian violinist L. Shankar.

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In the years that followed, Hussain has continued to produce recordings that range from the Indian classical tradition to world music even to the electronic sounds of his Bill Laswell collaboration Tabla Beat Science. Hussain also served as an SFJAZZ Resident Artist Director for the past three years. The tabla virtuoso will perform at this fund-raising gala honoring him, collaborating with a slew of jazz luminaries and regular SFJAZZ visitors like saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpet player and noted soundtrack composer Terence Blanchard and such Bay Area musicians as sax player Joshua Redman, powerhouse drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, percussionist John Santos and the Kronos Quartet. The SFJAZZ Collective will also perform.

Wednesday evening will also feature an “Afterjam” with rising jazz-funk outfit Snarky Puppy and special guest David Crosby (best known for his seminal recordings with Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Byrds). World music dance group Red Baraat will also play the afterparty in the intimate Joe Henderson Lab, pumping out it’s signature blend of Bhangra, funk and go-go beats.

The two parties on Wednesday night kick off a full schedule of concerts at the SFJAZZ Center, with all-star tribute performances honoring the memory of drummer Tony Williams (curated by Blackman Santana), Bay Area sax legend Joe Henderson (led by Redman), vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson (anchored by SFJAZZ Collective member Stefon Harris) culminated by a spotlight celebration for local sax hero John Handy that will feature the tribute subject himself performing with Miguel Zenon and many others. For a complete list of details and ticket information, please visit the SFJAZZ website.

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