Early in his career Bay Area saxophonist George Brooks (left, with Zakir Hussain) explored a range of disparate genres, from traditional and avant-garde jazz to roadhouse blues and modern classical. But in recent years he's become most at home with a global fusion that combines the tuneful sophistication of contemporary jazz with Indian classical rhythms. A versatile performer on both tenor and soprano, Brooks has backed up first-rate bandleaders such as post-bop pianist Jaki Byard, blues chanteuse Etta James, and new-music iconoclast Terry Riley. While touring extensively with Riley and sitarist Krishna Bhatt over the past two decades, Brooks learned to apply his passion for jazz improv to the demanding rules of the north Indian raga, which, contrary to conventional jazz's reliance on chord changes, focuses on single modes (or scales) and rigorous melodic and rhythmic cues.
Following up on the success of two recent CDs of his own compositions, Brooks put together Summit, a new band that includes such virtuosic instrumentalists as tabla star Zakir Hussain, award-winning drummer Steve Smith, John McLaughlin bassist Kai Eckhardt, and sitar-sounding guitarist Fareed Haque. In contrast to the excesses of the '70s fusionists, Summit employs a streamlined approach to its multicultural hybrids. With Brooks blowing mellifluous melodies and the rhythm section laying down synchronized beats and riffs that turn on a dime, Summit proffers world-jazz fusion as an accessible, stylish mix.