Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa slipped onto the jazz scene right around the turn of the millennium via sideman work with pianist Vijay Iyer
, on Architexture
(Asian Improv Records, 1998) and the breakout Panoptic Modes
(Red Giant Records, 2002). He continues to team with Iyer in an increasingly excellent evolution of sound on Reimagining
(Savoy Jazz, 2005), Raw Materials
(Savoy Jazz, 2006), and Tragicomic
(Savoy Jazz, 2008).
As a leader, Mahanthappa has recordedwith Iyer in the sideman roleMother Tongue
(Pi Recordings, 2004), and Codebook
(Pi Recordings, 2006), which, while both fine CDs, don't move too far from the Iyer influence. That changed with Kinsmen
(Pi Recordings, 2008), a breakout set that had the American-born saxophonist joining forces with India saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and the Dashina Ensemble for an exploration of Mahanthappa's heritage, and a marriage of the Southern India's classical music with the ebullience and improvisatory élan of American jazz. It's a record that found its way onto many year-end top ten lists and garnered a great deal of deservedly laudatory press. Apti
by Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition takes the same roots-exploring, marrying-of-Sub-Continent-with-American-forms path as Kinsmen
, paring the sound down to saxophone, guitar and tabla. While the disc hasn't garnered the same amount of attention as did Kinsmen
too close, perhaps, on its predecessor's heels; a different record label; or a second shot across the bow is not as ear-grabbing as the firstit is every bit as enthralling.
Mahanthappa's trio mates are a well chosen pair. Pakistani-American Rez Abbasi
makes the electric guitar sound hypnotically Eastern, with drone-like components and drifting, mystical single note forays that writhe in and out and around Manhanthappa's often rapid-fire notes. Dan Weiss
' tabla playing seals the dealsharp, popping Indian percussion that tightly punctuates the trio's sound.
Mahanthappa's horn sound is one of the more recognizable in jazz. On his work with Iyer, and on Codebook
and Mother Tongue
, it had a stinging-insect-trapped-under-a-glass intensity, full of joyfully furious, devil-may-care forward momentum. That's still there on Apti
, mixed in with interludes where that glass has been lifted, taking the sax sound into wide opens spaces and expansive skies, soaring with his Indo-Pak Coalition.