All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

7

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls at The Wexner Center for The Arts

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa brought his quintet to the Wexner Center at The Ohio State University February 27, 2016, to play his book of original compositions precipitated by the music of Charlie Parker. The audience to this sold out show was left with the proverbial question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Did they come to hear the music of alto saxophonist and originator of bebop, Charlie "Yardbird" Parker's music? Or, were they in the audience to experience the reigning king of the alto and 2015 critics' poll winner of composer, acoustic band of the year, and album of the year for his Bird Calls (ACT, 2015)? It has been sixty years since Parker passed away, and, frankly, a lot has changed in modern jazz music. Mahanthappa's band comprises a French bassist, Francois Moutin, a Californian pianist, Joshua White, a Texas-born Colorado-raised drummer, Rudy Royston and the 21 year old trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, grandson of the Afro-Cuban composer, arranger, and bandleader Chico O'Farrill. And, oh yeah, Mahanthappa is an Italian-born second generation American child born of Indian immigrants. No Dorothy, we aren't in Kansas anymore.

The music something a futuristic archeologist would create—reconstructing Parker's music based on a partial piece of sheet music, maybe a ragged corner or radio signal bounced back from Mars. A musical shamus might pick out the fragments of "Parker's Mood" from Mahanthappa's "Talin Is Thinking," but the point here is these latter-day jazz performers grew up on rock-and-roll, funk, punk, and hip-hop. As Mahanthappa joked, his young trumpeter thinks the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens was actually the first film. The saxophonist's opening solo on the piece whispers, hints, and mentions Parker, but it also draws from his Indian roots. When the band joins in, it is with an overwhelming force, playing as if to infer they were taking this town. And this night of music was indeed, theirs. Just as Charlie Parker often won cutting contests and bandstands, Mahanthappa's approach to playing is to always accelerate. Even on a ballad like "Sure Why Not," built on the shards of "Confirmation," his playing gains increasing momentum, except to pause for the expressive virtuoso bass solo from François Moutin.

The full force of this quintet was heard on "Chillin'" with the muscular drumming of Royston as a turbocharged engine supplying a certain leverage throughout. O'Farrill's trumpet often acts as a calming force, decelerating the melody to counter the tempest of Mahanthappa's saxophone. His playing often suggests that he is reconfiguring a Rubik's cube behind his back, making the difficult simple and the impossible probable. The trumpeter can spit notes like the late-1960s Miles Davis or deliver a classical music run with nonchalant and seemingly detached indifference.

The newest member of the band, pianist Joshua White, a replacement for the meteoric star Matt Mitchell soloed on "Maybe Later," turning his splinters of "Now's The Time" into a one-on-one dogfight with Royston. Their duet is best described as a McCoy Tyner, no better yet, Horace Tapscott-meets-Elvin Jones boxing match. Their feverish pace inspired O'Farrill and Moutin to also trade off. This music, like Parker's, is of its own time. Bird left Jay McShann's Kansas City and its territory bands for the urban sounds of New York morphing the DNA of swing into bebop. Likewise, Mahanthappa's evolution of Parker's coding is of its own multi-cultural time and place.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Apti

Apti

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Apti

Enhanced Performance

Enhanced Performance

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Codebook

Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Best of / Year End
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 Athens Aqua Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Athens Aqua Jazz Festival 2018
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: July 14, 2018
Read Hot Sugar at Jazz Cafe Montparnasse Live Reviews
Hot Sugar at Jazz Cafe Montparnasse
by Martin McFie
Published: July 14, 2018
Read Festival International De Jazz De Montréal 2018: Part 2 Live Reviews
Festival International De Jazz De Montréal 2018:...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 13, 2018
Read Django Festival in Fontainbleu Live Reviews
Django Festival in Fontainbleu
by Martin McFie
Published: July 13, 2018
Read Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018
by Luke Seabright
Published: July 12, 2018
Read Summer Jazz and Fringe Jazz Fest in Copenhagen Live Reviews
Summer Jazz and Fringe Jazz Fest in Copenhagen
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 12, 2018
Read "Bryan Ferry at the Paramount Theater" Live Reviews Bryan Ferry at the Paramount Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Suoni Per Il Popolo 2018" Live Reviews Suoni Per Il Popolo 2018
by Mike Chamberlain
Published: June 27, 2018
Read "Arturo Sandoval at the Blue Note" Live Reviews Arturo Sandoval at the Blue Note
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Jazzdor Berlin" Live Reviews Jazzdor Berlin
by Henning Bolte
Published: June 29, 2018
Read "Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018