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Rudresh Mahanthappa - Samdhi (Act, 2011)


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Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has become an important force on the modern jazz scene, leading his own groups and touring with legends like drummer Jack DeJohnette. This is Mathanthappa's most experimental recording to date, combining music from the Indian sub-continent, jazz and fusion to create a potent and heady brew. Accompanying him are David Gilmore on guitar, Rich Brown on bass, Damion Reid on drums and “Anand" Anantha Krishnan on percussion. There are also electronics and loops that add to the musical texture. After the slow opening incantation of “Parakram #1," the group really hits the ground running with the aptly named “Killer." Swirling pinched sounding alto saxophone along with strong drums and bass lead to the great vibrancy of the music. Saxophone and electric guitar trade and chase in an extraordinarily fast and dexterous manner over hammering electric bass and drums, making for a highlight of the recording, shining with incandescent luminosity. There are short breaks scattered amongst the longer improvisations, but “Playing With Stones," a longer tune, in which saxophone and electric bass build in strong and tart. Gilmore's guitar shadows Mahanthappa's saxophone over and excellent electric bass foundation. They then make way for a dynamic open section featuring bass and drums augmented by guitar accents. “Breakfastlunchanddinner" takes a funky route with saxophone and guitar trading phrases in an up-tempo bouncy fashion that recalls Ornette Coleman's great fusion albums Body Meta and Dancing in Your Head. Powerful saxophone leads to a scalding electric guitar solo, Gilmore really lays it on the line here, with a great rock tinged performance. Rich Brown is really the beating heart of the band and he is given a sterling bubbling solo backed by drums and guitar accents before the full band comes together for a strong conclusion. “Parakram #2" goes in an entirely different direction, developing smeared abstractions of sounds with echoing drums and saxophone rising above the cacophony. Electronics and synths along with copious overdubbing make for a strangely otherworldly impact, with sharp blasts of saxophone cutting through. “Ahhh" digs even deeper with bass and drums probing the depths while saxophone and guitar slither in at a medium tempo. Hand percussion simmers while guitar and saxophone intertwine like DNA. Mathanthappa breaks out for longer tones of yearning saxophone before turning the reigns over to Gilmore who creates his own electromagnetic field on guitar. The pace picks up to overdrive with dubbed saxophone wildly baying. Funky drums and electric bass return for “Still-Gas" before the full band kicks in hard. Long tones of saxophone with guitar accents usher in a loud/fast vs. soft/abstract notion that develops the kinetic energy which powers the performance. There is also a sterling section of electric guitar over bubbling bass and urgent drumming, before the full band reunites for a complex conclusion. Samdhi looks forward to new vistas in Mathanhappa's all-encompassing musical vision. Combining multi-cultural music and looking at jazz in a fresh direction, he has created a unique synergy of music that is fresh and exciting.

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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