Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh Mahanthappa

The title of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s new recording, Black Water (Red Giant), refers to the ocean, the prodigiously wide and deep body of water you cross when you leave your culture behind. The 10-song suite, tied together with interrelated rhythmic and melodic motifs, serves as a meditation on cultural displacement, but it’s also an opportunity for the saxophonist-composer to explore his Indian ancestry in music. Here is what you will not hear on Black Water: tablas, sitars, incantation or drone. This is not Indo-jazz fusion. Aside from very subtle touches-a saxophone played with a pinched sound and an occasionally sliding pitch or a rhythmic cell built from a 10 1/2-beat cycle-Mahanthappa’s music is cutting, sleek and heavily rhythmic modern jazz. It has more in common with the music of Steve Coleman or Greg Osby than it does with that of Ravi Shankar.

“I grew up listening to Indian religious music,” Mahanthappa says. “Later, I studied it, because I had a relationship to it. I gravitated to it, like Steve Coleman gravitated to certain African music. He felt a cultural draw to it. But I’m not trying to create a fusion. If I wanted to do that, I’d get a tabla player. I’m trying to express those sounds in the context of jazz today. I’m trying to make a hard statement-some sort of expression of Indian-American identity. I think that’s expressed throughout the record.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published