Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa continues to avoid stereotypes, whether pushing the envelope with his acoustic ensembles or including electronic colorations in 2011's Samdhi (ACT). With Gamak, his unique blend of progressive jazz and Indian music is still evolving. The added twist here is not only a reunion with the magnificent rhythm section of bassist Francois Moutin and tabla/drum guru Dan Weiss who performed on the saxophonist's Codebook (Pi, 2006), but also the addition of guitarist David Fiuczynski. whose own body of work is no stranger to the exotic.
Mahanthappa's thirteenth recording is chock-full of ideas both peculiar and tantalizing, as in "Waiting Is Forbidden" and its elements of punk rock, tight funk and intricate tempo changes. The equally mesmeric "Abhogi" is based on a rare India raga, tinted by Fiuczynski's blues-drizzled slide guitar, Moutin's robust arco, some keen drums trades from Weiss, and Mahanthappa's cutting alto lines. These, as well as the remaining tracks, exude a certain "algorithmic elegance."
The combination of Mahanthappa and Fiuczynski is golden. "Fuze's encyclopedic axe contains everything from acid rock work with his Screaming Headless Torso group to an extensive knowledge of Eastern music and alternate tunings. He's the perfect foil for Mahanthappa's multilingual music and feverish flights, as evidenced on the languid "Are There Clouds In India?," where the two complement each with harmonic and dissonant tension.
Other decisive moments include Moutin's dynamic bass spotlight on "F" and the pensive "Ballad For Troubled Times," where the altoist delivers gorgeous elongated lines. In contrast, the set concludes with the head-banging "Majesty of the Blues," which short circuits just as the groove gets good. Still, it's a fitting conclusion to another excellent and unusual release by the ever-searching and forward-thinking Mahanthappa.
Waiting Is Forbidden; Abhogi; Stay I; We'll Make More; Are There Clouds In India?; Lots of Interest; F; Copernicus - 19; Wrathful Wisdom; Ballad For Troubled Times; Majesty of the Blues.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Francois Moutin: bass; Dan Weiss: drums; Dave Fiuczynski: guitar.
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