Rudresh Mahanthappa: Apti
Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition
Apti (Innova 709)
Composed by Rudresh Mahanthappa.
Recorded: Brooklyn, January 21, 2008
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
"I first started a version of this group when I lived in Chicago back in 1996," Rudresh Mahanthappa explains. "There was a sort of pressure put upon me to do something Indian as there was no precedent for an Indian-American jazz musician at the time. I disbanded the group rather quickly as I felt I lacked the skills and knowledge to lead such a trio with musical and cultural integrity." Mahanthappa was concerned lest this attempt at crossing musical boundaries, sometimes as daunting as geographical ones, might collapse into "exoticism" or exploitation of his ancestry.
A dozen years later, Mahanthappa returns to the alluring intersection between jazz and South Asian music, and the result is a gripping recording that brings together contrasting traditions in a seamless whole. The affinity between Indian music and jazz, hinted at in countless modal recordings over the years, is made manifest in this high-voltage performance. From the opening melody statement, Mahanthappa plays right on top of the beat with a fierce insistence. Usually this type of playing strikes me as lacking in phrasing, yet the saxophonist shows that you don't need soft, warm contours to give shape to a melody line. If you put together the right combinations with the proper moments of emphasis, even a boxing match conveys beauty and grace. And, yes, this is something of a pugilistic performance. Mahanthappa's solo extends the energy and - perhaps even more remarkably - the vocabulary of the melody, and the torrent of notes does justice to both the South Asian and post-Trane tributaries that flow into its construction. Rez Abassi and Dan Weiss also impress on this track. The end result is surprising to the degree that it doesn't sound exotic, rather like a natural marriage of true minds to which none of us should admit impediments.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
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