There’s no way to extricate Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead’s legacy. He was one of a pair of drummers—the other half was Bill Kreutzmann—making instrumental excess so easy for the ensemble. With Jerry Garcia’s penchant for Americana made evident through countless recordings on albums with folks like mandolin player David Grisman, Hart’s interests outside the Dead focused on roots music of another kind. Exploring a history of percussion reaching back much further than recorded sound, Hart set about not just incorporating those styles into his own work as portions of the 1972 “Rolling Thunder” express, but by performing compositions worked up in association with performers like Zakir Hussain. “Diga Rhythm Band,” as released in 1976, wasn’t the first time Western audiences had been exposed to Eastern music—Ravi Shankar’s “East meets West” series began almost a decade earlier and the Dead frequently looked to Babatunde Olatunji for collaboration. Hart’s Diga recording, though, was mostly stripped of American pretense and issued sounds drawn largely from other cultures. Its second side opens with a Latin-tinged rhythm. And with Ray Spiegel contributing vibes to the work, it sounds as if the composition could have come from any number of places outside of the NorCal sphere of influence. Hart’s work since then has dodged back and forth between reunions with onetime band members, further explorations of his own writing coupled with influences from international sources as well as some plain old ethnomusicology. Recently, “The Mickey Hart Collection” was released in partnership with the Smithsonian. Despite the package’s name, the twenty-five albums aren’t all Hart pounding away behind a set. Instead, there’s a combination of the drummer’s own recordings and archival tape detailing everything from Jewish weddings to explorations of the Indian sarangi, chanting Monks and Latvian choirs. Hart performing live might not include each of those unique voices, but there’ll no doubt be some surprising combinations. (Dave Cantor)
December 17 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2508, 9pm. $30.