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Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls

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Alto saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa has usually been most riveting when engaged in collaborative projects. While Raw Materials, his duo with pianist Vijay Iyer, is probably most renowned, Mahanthappa’s best creative partnerships have often been with fellow alto players, including Steve Lehman in Dual Identity, Bunky Green in Apex and the Carnatic master Kadri Gopalnath on the 2008 record Kinsmen.

With Bird Calls, we can put Charlie Parker at or near the top of that distinguished list. The influence of Parker has been apparent in Mahanthappa’s style as much for the way he attacks a song with an uncompromising blend of rapid force and lyrical flow as for any specifics in harmony or rhythm. But this album puts Mahanthappa’s enriched Parker scholarship on ingenious display, using different elements of songs from Bird’s catalog as inspirations, interpolations, excerpts and deconstructions for eight of Mahanthappa’s own compositions and five snippets entitled “Bird Calls.” Some connections are fairly obvious (especially with the publicity materials and liner notes providing a cheat sheet). “Both Hands” removes the rests from the melody of Bird’s “Dexterity” to further tromp the throttle. “Maybe Later” keeps the rhythm but changes the notes to Bird’s indelible solo from “Now’s the Time.” The links between “On the DL” and Bird’s “Donna Lee,” or “Sure Why Not?” and “Confirmation,” are less apparent.

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