All great jazz musicians are omnivores, admired for their ability to ingest and synthesize large schools of music. Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
is one such omnivore, maybe best described as an alpha predator. His music, whether it is advancing modern jazz or fusing the Carnatic music of southern India with his American experience, occupies the highest level of the musical food chain. Like other predacious jazzmen, he can make a meal of everything from pop songs to jazz standards. Mahanthappa's Hero Trio
does just that, starting and ending (where else?) with the music of Charlie Parker
, Parker being the archetype for this trio's process. Together with bassist Francois Moutin
and drummer Rudy Royston
, who can be heard on the saxophonist's quintet release Bird Calls
(ACT, 2015), Mahanthappa stalks his musical influences.
Where Bird Calls
sliced and decontextualized Parker's music, this release takes it head on. "Red Cross" and "Dewey Square" are delivered with all the ferocity Parker listeners must have felt back in the 1940s. The inner sleeve of the CD has a photo of the trio dressed as comic book super heroes, and like The Avengers comics, the Hero Trio
often plays one strong character against the others to great effect.
This session is an all-covers recording. From the sweet notes of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" to the standard "I'll Remember April," this triad of voracious improvisers absorbs the familiar and reimagines it. Maybe the best example is "Ring Of Fire" made famous by Johnny Cash. Like Sonny Rollins
' reworking of "I'm An Old Cowhand," Mahanthappa sets sail on the conventional, expanding one's insights on the familiar. The trio's expansion includes Ornette Coleman
's "Sadness" with Moutin's inspired bowed opening, Royston's mallet work, and the saxophonist's ineffable voicing. The highlight here might be "Barbados/26-2." It is the merging of Parker's "Barbados" with Coltrane's "26-2," which itself was a borrowed chord progression of Bird's "Confirmation." The trio ensnares the compositions by tracking one, then the other, before entangling both in their musical jaws. It is a delicious massacre.
Red Cross; Overjoyed; Barabados/26-2; I Can't Get Started; The Windup; Ring Of Fire; I'll Remember April; Sadness; Dewey Square.