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Rudresh Mahanthappa: Gamak

Is there a better rivalry in jazz today than the friendly competition between Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa? For many years they performed as a duo at European festivals, regularly appeared on each other’s records, and were frequently linked and referenced as alter egos. But their joint projects and events began to dwindle significantly about five years ago-around the same time the music of both was mutating steadily in a more melodic and danceable vein, even as they both also frequently invoked the musical forms and traditions of their Indian heritage.

Gamak, recorded about three weeks after Iyer’s highly celebrated Accelerando was released early last year, is an itchy, ambitious, often molten mosaic of styles and cultures. It reunites the rhythm section from Mahanthappa’s longstanding quartet, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss, best known from Codebook in 2006, and replaces the fourth member from that disc, Iyer, with the versatile guitar wizard David “Fuze” Fiuczynski. They slay havoc with the risky derring-do of bullfighters. Or, as Mahanthappa says in the liner notes, Gamak “incorporates Western forms of jazz, progressive rock, heavy metal, country, American folk, go-go and ambient, while simultaneously engaging the rich traditions of Indian, Chinese, African and Indonesian music.”

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