632

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Codebook

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Codebook Musicians who lean toward a cerebral approach face two challenges: avoiding contrivance, and ensuring there's enough emotional content to resonate with listeners on an instinctive level. Altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa has been performing an uncanny balancing act in that regard since he relocated to New York in the late '90s. He's been making as much of a name for his own work as he has as a member of pianist Vijay Iyer's various projects. The two share a cultural heritage and approach that manages to find the nexus point between East and West without sounding quite like either.

As its basis, Codebook has an intellectual conceit: applying symbols and mathematics to shape musical communication. In lesser hands this route might reek of contrivance, but Mahanthappa makes it an honest and emotionally powerful work.

Codes are all about patterns, and Mahanthappa's music revolves around structured forms, at least as underlying foundations. They might be construed as restrictive if it weren't for the broad-mindedness of his superb quartet partners: Iyer, bassist François Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss. Iyer's the best-known of the bunch, but Moutin has been building a reputation with both Mahanthappa and his own Moutin Reunion Quartet. He's an engaging combination of visceral energy and rhythmic/harmonic complexity, qualities which dovetail perfectly with the increasingly ubiquitous Weiss, who seems to have no limit in terms of stylistic reach. Together they push the fiery and rhythmically staggered "The Decider, create a darker underpinning for the more oblique and Eastern-inflected "Refresh, and combine for a remarkably funky yet fluid backbeat to support the metrically challenged "Enhanced Performance.

What takes Codebook out of the realm of clever convention and makes it a powerful statement is the freedom with which every player approaches the material. Mahanthappa is on fire throughout, creating cascading lines that sometimes feel at odds with rhythms that sometimes simmer, other times boil, underneath. His tone is surprisingly dry, reminiscent at times of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. But while Garbarek has become a leaner player over time, Mahanthappa isn't afraid to build complex lines that serve as catalysts for the rest of the group, directly or indirectly cuing directional shifts.

On "Frontburner, which begins with Mahanthappa in duet with Weiss, there's a sense of abandon that's in direct contrast with the boppish theme and near-swing of "D (Dee Dee)," which ultimately dissolves into an open middle section featuring the imaginative and unencumbered Moutin.

Codebook proves that pattern-based music needn't be rigid. For Mahanthappa, the approach is simply a way to provide context. Consequently, this exciting and distinctive disc continues a string of impressive albums that began with Yatra (RM, 2001).

Track Listing: The Decider; Refresh; Enhanced Performance; Further and In Between; Play It Again Sam; Frontburner; D (Dee-Dee); Wait It Through; My Sweetest.

Personnel: Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Vijay Iyer: piano; Francois Moutin: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Pi Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Pathways CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Landing CD/LP/Track Review Landing
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Words And Music CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Faces CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Matthew Halsall: On the Go (Special Edition)" CD/LP/Track Review Matthew Halsall: On the Go (Special Edition)
by Phil Barnes
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "Luisa" CD/LP/Track Review Luisa
by Matt Marshall
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Heartaches By The Number" CD/LP/Track Review Heartaches By The Number
by James Nadal
Published: May 13, 2016
Read "Migration Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Migration Blues
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Horizon Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Horizon Ahead
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 17, 2016
Read "Heavy Feel" CD/LP/Track Review Heavy Feel
by Doug Collette
Published: May 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!