Rudresh Mahanthappa & Gamak

Montgomery County Community College, April 6, 2013

By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.

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Indian-American alto saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa captured the audience’s imagination with his adventurous, innovative blends of Jazz and Indian music this evening at Montgomery County Community College, Science Center Theatre in Blue Bell, PA. Not a stranger to this theatre, according to Helen Haynes, Director of Cultural Affairs, Mahanthappa was a special guest performer with Bobby Zankel and the Warriors of the Wonderful Sound at this theatre in 2010.

On tour featuring his new album “Gamak”, Mahanthappa intricately weaved the rhythms Indian, that he described as the “gamakas” or a specific way a skillful musician tailors the notes or move between them. The Quartet includes David “Fuze” Fiuczynski on fretted and fretless guitars, Francois Moutin on acoustic bass, and Dan Weiss on drums.

The set opened boldly with Mahanthappa playing explosive, intense runs that seemed to spiral into so many directions on the tune “Waiting is Forbidden”. Fiuczynski’s fluid double-necked guitar added a blend of rock, jazz and funk to set the mood. Next Mahanthappa shared that the title of the next tune "Stay I” was inspired while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when he came across a broken sign that should have read “Stay In Lane”. This complex tune included a drum and bass groove between Weiss and Moutin with Mahanthappa focused on long, low repeated riffs.

Mahanthappa described the piece “Aboghi” as a South Indian raga that was also performed in the Hindustani tradition. As the rhythm gathered with intensity, Fiuczynski’s guitar lines, underscored the connection between all the musicians. Other tunes included "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Wrathful Wisdom". These songs culminated into what appeared to be a playful face-off between Moutin and Weiss, who seemed to have limitless energy on the drums.

Mahanthappa showed off his extraordinary technique on the moving "Ballad for Troubled Times" including heartfelt creaks as his solo weaved back and forth through the register. This beautiful melody filled the concert hall leaving the audience breathless. It was evident that Mahanthappa has a passion for his music and that South Asian influences are deeply rooted in these exciting and complicated musical creations.

Stay tuned for reviews and photos from the 2013-2014 Lively Arts Season at Montgomery County Community College. The season is going to be fantastic!

More images from the event are in Ben Johnson's photo gallery

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.