World on the Strings
Haque’s musical eclecticism has paid off. With nine albums since he graduated from Northwestern, the guitarist has become one of the most acclaimed artists in the jazz-fusion field. Influenced by everyone from ’60s folk-rockers Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to world music phenom Zakir Hussain, Haque’s music has an international flavor that combines the sounds of Chicago, Islamabad and Santiago.
“He is a musician who transcends a lot of musical boundaries that we ought to transcend,” says Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich (Mu77). “I don’t view him as a classical guitarist; I view him as a guitarist who happens to play a classical guitar.”
Even as an undergraduate, Haque was determined to follow his own path. Transferring to Northwestern from the University of North Texas after freshman year, he took music history and theory classes over the summer so that he could jump into performance immediately that fall.
Haque also performed at jazz gigs in downtown Chicago and around the country, often missing classes and, as a result, having to negotiate academic matters with faculty. “Northwestern was very encouraging of my touring. I’d say I was a motivated student,” says Haque, who is now an associate professor of music at Northern Illinois University.
“Working with hundreds of artists,” he adds, “helped me get a feeling for the meaning of art — a sense of the history and the culture of the music.”
Haque’s love affair with the guitar started at age 11, when his mother suggested he try an instrument more portable than piano, which he’d been playing for two years. Haque immediately bonded with the fretted instrument. “The guitar is an instrument that relates to classical music and the jazz trade as well as to pop and rock,” he says. “With guitar I could bring it all together on the same instrument.”
As a teenager Haque traveled every week to seek out music at its source. He would drive the family car from the Chicago suburbs to jazz clubs in the city. “The shows would go from midnight until 4 in the morning,” he says. “I didn’t usually get home till around 5, but my parents let me go.”
While Haque’s musical influences span the globe, his permanent address is just blocks from Northwestern. Upon graduation, he and his wife, musician Elizabeth Conant, bought a house in Evanston, where they both practice and perform.
“We found a beautiful home, and we have a view of the lake and a backyard,” he says. “After my time at Northwestern, Evanston felt like home to me.”
According to Reich, Haque’s attachment to the North Shore and the city is duly appreciated. “The Chicago scene is lucky to have him,” Reich says. “His work affects so many people in so many different idioms.”
— Rebecca Zeifman (J04)