Rudresh Mahanthappa - A Charlie Parker Project, A World Premiere
Friday, August 1, 2014 Fort Adams State Park
Photo by Jimmy Katz
Few musicians share the ability of saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. Time and again, Mahanthappa has eloquently displayed the capacity to absorb numerous styles and genres of music, combine them with the language of modern jazz, and emerge with a new form still recognizably jazz.
What has materialized is a sound that hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form that reflects Mahanthappa's own experience growing up a second-generation Indian-American. Just as his personal experience is never wholly lived on one side of the hyphenate or the other, his music speaks in a voice dedicated to forging a new path forward. The manifestations of that trajectory include the latest version of his quartet setting, currently named Gamak, and now featuring guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski, whose own microtonal vocabulary has opened new possibilities for Mahanthappa's compositional imagination; and Samdhi, a multi-cultural ensemble that advances Mahanthappa's blend of jazz and Indian music with modernist electronic music. Samdhi's self-titled debut, released in 2010 by ACT Music + Vision, was hailed by JazzTimes as "a landmark convergence of styles that didn't lend itself to easy analysis... new music of this caliber hasn't been attempted before."
Giants in both jazz and South Indian music have recognized his success. Most recently, Mahanthappa was asked to join the working group of legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette, while a collaboration with the renowned Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath resulted in Mahanthappa's critically-acclaimed 2008 CD Kinsmen (Pi). He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year in Downbeat's 2011 & 2012 International Critics Polls and for four years running by the Jazz Journalists' Association (2009-2012).
These impressive accolades, as well as critical praise from such influential outlets as NPR, the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice and the New Yorker, spotlight Mahanthappa's expanding role as a pioneer in the contemporary jazz world. His early years growing up in Colorado, his studies at Berklee College of Music and DePaul University, and his staggering wealth of experiences playing alongside elders and contemporary masters from a number of musical disciplines, are all refracted into his stunning and still-evolving body of work.
Mahanthappa is a Yamaha artist and uses Vandoren reeds exclusively.
Photos: (left to right) Bobby McFerrin, Robert Glasper, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, John Zorn