Editors' pick

Rudresh Mahanthappa


Editorial Review

Album review: "Samdhi"

Rudresh Mahanthappa may have grown up in an Indian American family in Colorado, but he was inspired to play the saxophone by David Sanborn and Charlie Parker. By the time he entered the Berklee College of Music, he had developed his own version of Sanborn's lustrous tone and Parker's rhythmic agility. It was only then that he first listened to Indian music seriously.

The dilemma for the alto saxophonist is how to integrate Indian music, something he's clearly interested in, into his music without distracting from the African American tradition of jazz, his first and still primary concern. One solution seems to lie in his new album, "Samdhi," which fuses the acoustic traditions of South Indian and African American music with the glue of electricity - not only the amplified instruments of guitarist David Gilmore and bassist Rich Brown but also the electronica manipulations of Mahanthappa's own laptop.

The buzzing technology dissolves the head-scratching issues of this tradition or that tradition to create an irresistible momentum that carries along motifs taken from here and there. Carnatic motifs, pushed along by South Indian percussionist Anantha Krishnan, may occupy the foreground of the track "Killer," and '70s jazz-rock fusion motifs may do the same on "Breakfastlunchanddinner," but all of Mahanthappa's interests jostle one another throughout the album, subsumed in the rippling silk of his saxophone timbre.

--Geoffrey Himes, Jan. 13, 2012