RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA (Composer/Alto Saxophone) - Few musicians share the ability of Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. The saxophonist/composer hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form reflecting his own experience growing up a second-generation Indian-American. Just as his personal experience is never wholly lived on one side of the hyphenate or the other, his music speaks in a voice dedicated to forging a new path forward.
The current manifestations of that trajectory include his latest quintet project Bird Calls which issued its first release in February 2015 as it undertakes an extended period of live performances. This is 21st Century tribute to Charlie Parker includes a stellar band of pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist François Moutin, drummer Rudy Royston, and 20-year old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill. The 2013 album Gamak featured guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, whose own microtonal vocabulary opened new possibilities for Mahanthappa’s compositional imagination, alongside bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss. The 2010 debut CD by Samdhi (ACT Music + Vision), a multi-cultural ensemble that advances Mahanthappa’s blend of jazz and Indian music with modernist electronic music, was described by JazzTimes as “a landmark convergence of styles that didn't lend itself to easy analysis… new music of this caliber hasn't been attempted before.” Other recent projects run the gamut from the cross-generational alto summit Apex featuring Bunky Green; trios MSG and Mauger; the quintet Dual Identity co-led with fellow altoist Steve Lehman; and Raw Materials, his long-running duo project with pianist Vijay Iyer. Mahanthappa also continues to partner with Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and innovative percussionist Dan Weiss in the Indo-Pak Coalition, while giants in both jazz and South Indian music have recognized his success: he was enlisted by Jack DeJohnette for the legendary drummer’s new working group, while a collaboration with the renowned Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath resulted in Mahanthappa’s critically-acclaimed 2008 CD Kinsmen (Pi).
Hailed by the New York Times as possessing “a roving intellect and a bladelike articulation,” Mahanthappa has been awarded a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year in Downbeat’s International Critics Polls, Jazztimes’ Critics Polls and by the Jazz Journalists’ Association numerous times.
Mahanthappa is a Yamaha artist and uses Vandoren reeds exclusively.