World-renowned guitarist still impresses on the small stage

Fareed Haque took the stage at the Rathskeller last Tuesday night to display his world-renowned talent for a modestly sized audience. Haque’s music spans varied genres and styles from Baroque to South American music.

Alone on stage without his usual backing band, he performed a set of jazz and funk standards from the ’20s through the ’50s, including “Freedom Jazz Dance” by Eddie Harris, “Roundabout Midnight” by Thelonious Monk and a Duke Ellington piece.

Before beginning, he asked the audience, “Pretend there’s a bass player or a drummer behind me.” He then strapped on his six-string and adopted a seated, shoegaze stance, carefully picking, slapping and strumming without looking at the audience.

Haque created an extremely versatile sound with only a guitar and a few distortion pedals. At times, he produced rhythmic bass notes so soft and low in tone that they were nearly obscured beneath the conversations of the crowd. In a moment, he transitioned into a loud, commanding groove. In his first song, a blues piece, he slid seamlessly between acute high notes and low strummed chords.

Haque is a musician with eclectic musical history and training. His résumé, varied and impressive, includes many recordings, compositions, awards and a professorship in jazz and classical guitar studies.

The acclaimed virtuoso stopped to explain his influences during one of the intermissions.

“I started listening to Pakistani music and Chilean music and then American jazz and rock,” Haque said. He also cited the Sabri brothers and mentioned listening to North Indian folk music.

“You don’t think Indians can get down, but boy, they can,” he said.

Haque explained the format of his set, citing his choice to perform solo guitar jazz as a result of last minute scheduling.

Normally, he plays with his jam band Garaj Mahal, writing what he described as party music. Haque is from Chicago where he learned piano at 8, strings at 10, guitar at 11 and later earned a degree in classical guitar. Coming from a multicultural family, (his father is Pakistani and his mother Chilean), he traveled to many different countries at a young age and gained him experience with different musical styles.

Haque once toured with legendary jazz-fusion band Weather Report for a year. He described touring with Joe Zawinul and the band as his best training.

“It kicked my ass,” he said.

A traveling man, music has punched Haque’s ticket to numerous destinations the world over.

“I love Europe, Italy and Spain. And Germany is beautiful,” he said.

He promised he would bring a full band next time.

“Bring your saris, incense and whatever else you want to burn,” he said. “We’ll have an Indian dance party.”