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Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Apti

Dan McClenaghan By

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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 recorded—with Iyer in the sideman role—Mother 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 first—it 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 deal—sharp, 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.

Track Listing: Looking Out, Looking In; Apti; Vandanaa Trayee; Adana; Palika Market; IIT; Baladhi; You Talk Too Much.

Personnel: Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Rez Abbasi: guitars; Dan Weiss: tabla.

Title: Apti | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Innova Recordings

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