Jazz has been a well-established genre in India since the 1940s. American talent played top venues in large cities like Bombay in the '50s, and the cultures interrelated within India's natural jazz evolution from its early stages. Traditional Indian music uses single notes rather than the intricate chords typical in western jazz, so when saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa combines those inspirations the result is absorbing. Despite overtly displaying an Indian influence throughout Apti, Mahanthappa doesn't approach his music like some new world antagonist but more as an intermediary between the genres.
Mahanthappa keeps most traditional jazz sounds on the periphery on the title track. The effect is almost at a subconscious level, as the Indian influences control the main theme while there is an ongoing lure to search outside that box for more familiar ground. It is just the right mix to make the sound more clearly ethnic without throwing out the jazz element. "Vandanaa Trayee" features a sitar-like guitar method from Rez Abbasi, accompanied by Mahanthappa's somewhat longer lines, providing a serene staging for Abbasi's acoustic solo.
"IIT" is one of the more interesting tracks as it opens in a solidly rooted post-bop approach, and yet controlledlike all the tracks on Apti by an ethnic sensibility. In this case, the sound has more of a general Middle Eastern feel as Dan Weiss's tablas set the pace and feel. "IIT" has a strong resemblance to some of Jan Garbarek's earlier collaborations with Ustad Shaukat Hussain, but here the music is more melodic.
Mahanthappa has previously been best identified as the saxophonist in Vijay Iyer's progressive and groundbreaking trio. One of the most recognized jazz musicians of Indian descent (Mahanthappa is a Boulder, Colorado native), it was clear early on that his creative and unique style fated him as a leader. His melding of musical cultures has been an on and off experiment until his move to New York in 1997. He has been quoted as having early trepidations regarding the ability and logic of working traditional Indian drones, jazz harmonies and primal instruments such as tabla, into a jazz format. This concern existed, despite earlier works of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. However, having accumulated experience, expertise and self-assurance, Mahanthappa has set about composing and producing a work based on an understanding of western jazz and Indian conventions to produce an unusually inventive collection.
Looking out, Looking In; Apti; Vandanaa Trayee; Adana; Palika Market; Iit; Baladhi; You Talk Too Much.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto Saxophone; Rez Abbasi: guitar; Dan Weiss: tabla.
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