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Flat Planet – Fareed Haque and the Flat Earth Ensemble

Owl Studios

In 2005, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a vital called The World is Flat. In it, Friedman successfully argued the concept of unilateralism was dead. Whether you are trying to sell a bagel, download porn, or start a land war in Asia, you cannot act in an ethnocentric vacuumthere are always global implications. Musically speaking, this isn’t a new concept. The term “world music” has been around since at least the 60s, and in this vein, but with an attempted twenty-first century feel, Fareed Haque and the Flat Earth Ensemble have released Flat Planet.

Much of The World Is Flat deals with India, and it is this area of the world that Haque has decided to mash with his noodly modern jazz. Haque has said “Hindustani music swings!” And on the opening tracks, “Big Bhangra,” and “The Chant,” it does, but on other tracks like “Fur Place,” and “Uneven Mantra,” we are faced with the truth that no amount of tabla drums can salvage 52,937 prosaic notes. But there is more than enough here to get excited about: “The Hangar” has a bitchin’ flute solo and sounds like the background music from a party scene in a light 60s comedyperhaps something starring Audrey Hepburn. Haque gets his turn to strut his stuff, and on this track his playing channels more Wes Montgomery than Pat Methenysomething he should always do.

Flat Planet is an enjoyable album full of musical dexterity, but one that doesn’t quite live up to its promise. It sounds too much like any old jazz fusion album from the 70s and 80s and not enough like an album made on our flat planet. “32 Taxis,” a track that appears just before the album’s yawning closer “Four Corners Suite,” should have been the template for the album. “32 Taxis” sounds more New Delhi than New York. This is something big chunks of the album fail to do, yet one can imagine a world in which they would have succeeded.

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