632

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Codebook

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Codebook | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Apti

Apti

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Apti

Enhanced Performance

Enhanced Performance

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Codebook

Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Year in Review
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Interviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Interviews
Read more articles
Agrima

Agrima

Self Produced
2017

buy
Bird Calls

Bird Calls

ACT Music
2015

buy
Gamak

Gamak

ACT Music
2013

buy
 

Samdhi

ACT Music
2012

buy
Gamak

Gamak

ACT Music
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Along for the Ride Album Reviews
Along for the Ride
By Jack Bowers
June 20, 2019
Read Ancestral Recall Album Reviews
Ancestral Recall
By Karl Ackermann
June 20, 2019
Read Eternal Youth Album Reviews
Eternal Youth
By Don Phipps
June 20, 2019
Read Curiouser and Curiouser Album Reviews
Curiouser and Curiouser
By Mike Jurkovic
June 20, 2019
Read Getz At The Gate Album Reviews
Getz At The Gate
By Chris May
June 19, 2019
Read Keep Talkin' Album Reviews
Keep Talkin'
By Dan McClenaghan
June 19, 2019
Read Night Owl Album Reviews
Night Owl
By Dan Bilawsky
June 19, 2019