Photo: Rudresh Mahanthappa @ New York’s Vision Festival | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, October 15, 2017 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview with alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa. We’ll start the show with a brief check in with BRIC Jazz Festival co-organizer Brice Rosenbloom for a preview of this year’s schedule.
Few musicians share the ability of Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. The saxophonist/composer hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form reflecting his 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.
One of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s projects titled Bird Calls (2015), which was named #1 album of the year by both Downbeat and NPR Music’s Jazz Critics Poll. This 21st Century tribute to Charlie Parker, which Downbeat Magazine recently named Best Album of 2015, includes a stellar band of pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist François Moutin, drummer Rudy Royston, and 20-year old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill. The 2013 album Gamak featured guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, whose own microtonal vocabulary opened new possibilities for Mahanthappa’s compositional imagination, alongside bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss. The 2010 release of Samdhi (ACT Music + Vision), a multi-cultural ensemble that advances Mahanthappa’s blend of jazz and Indian music with modernist electronic music, was described 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.” Other projects run the gamut from the cross-generational alto summit Apex featuring Bunky Green; trios MSG and Mauger; the quintet Dual Identity co-led with fellow altoist Steve Lehman; and Raw Materials, his long-running duo project with pianist Vijay Iyer. Mahanthappa was enlisted by Jack DeJohnette for the legendary drummer’s new working group, while a collaboration with the renowned Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath resulted in Mahanthappa’s critically- acclaimed 2008 CD Kinsmen (Pi).
Hailed by the New York Times as possessing “a roving intellect and a bladelike articulation,” Mahanthappa has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and numerous commissions. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year four of the past five years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Polls and for five years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association. In April 2013, he received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, one of the most prominent arts awards in the world. In 2015, he was named a United States Artists Fellow.
Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition has been hailed by The New York Times as “a trio equally grounded in folk tradition and jazz improvisation, propos[ing] a social pact as well as a musical ideal.” The ensemble’s three formidable talents — Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Rez Abbasi on guitar, and Dan Weiss on tabla — first documented their group conception in 2008 with Apti, which won praise from The Guardian for its “irresistible urgency.” Agrima, the long-awaited follow-up, finds Mahanthappa and the group expanding aesthetic horizons: adding a modified drum set, incorporating effects and electronics, and working with a broader audio canvas overall.The core of the band’s sound, the vibrant presence of Indian rhythmic and melodic elements in a charged, modern improvisational framework born of the New York jazz scene, remains firmly in place. The scheduled release date is October 1 as a digital download for $2.50.
(Bio adapted from Mahanthappa’s official website.)
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition is scheduled to appear as part of the BRIC Jazz Festival on Saturday, October 21.
Watch Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition in this 2010 live clip from the Flushing Town Hall.
Watch the video preview of the Indo-Pak Coalition’s Agrima.
Watch Mahanthappa and pianist Vijay Iyer in this live clip from the 2007 JVC Jazz Festival in New York.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.