With his latest project, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahant-happa approaches the cross-pollination of Indian music and jazz from yet another angle. Last year, he successfully combined the two elements on Kinsmen, with Indian saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath. The Indo-Pak Coalition finds him playing with Rez Abassi (guitar) and Dan Weiss (tablas). Mahanthappa previously led a similar group in the mid-’90s but disbanded it because he felt that he lacked the musical knowledge for the endeavor. True or not, the current project reveals otherwise.
“Looking Out, Looking In” opens the album with Abassi sustaining notes of a broken arpeggio. Mahanthappa enters soon after with a bent note that could either be channeling the blues or an Indian scale that doesn’t quite adhere to Western pitch. Either way, he brings East and West together and sets the tone for what’s to come. With what could be considered spare instrumentation, each player works to fill out the sound and stretch beyond his role. Abassi does this most significantly, shifting between harmonic accompanist and soloist. Weiss often follows the melody and, on “IIT,” his solo evokes a trap kit, playing a kick drum pulse on one tabla and cascading beats on the other. Earlier in the track, Abassi sounds like a relative to Dick Dale’s feverish strumming, which makes interesting bedfellows with Mahanthappa’s pungent tone.
“You Talk Too Much” closes the album on a playful note, the title referencing the saxophonist’s endless spray of Eastern bebop-like melody. Mahanthappa’s vision succeeds again.