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Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green: Apex

Shaun Brady reviews album featuring collaboration between two saxophonists

Fairly often, acclaimed young jazz musicians like to repay their lesser-known mentors with guest spots and collaborations, in an effort to share some good fortune and spotlight an unsung patriarch. Such, on the surface, would seem to be the case with alto saxophonists Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green, whose performances in New York earlier this year created genuine buzz. The two share equal billing on their new quintet outing, Apex, but Mahanthappa is almost universally acclaimed as one of the most innovative voices in modern jazz, while Green has been sequestered in the shadows of academia for most of the past three decades, hailed by a younger generation of forward-looking saxophonists but largely unheard by the general public.

So it’s Mahanthappa’s name that will lend Green the largest audience he’s possibly ever had. But if Apex is an act of charity, it’s not meant for the elder saxophonist; rather, it’s for those of us who’ve been deprived of his playing for so long. It would seem condescending to say that the 75-year-old Green holds his own with his 39-year-old counterpart. Entered into without preconceptions, the particulars of ages or discographies would simply vanish, leaving behind two fiercely inventive musicians whose individually muscular playing is only strengthened and enhanced by the inspiration of the other.

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