Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet | Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet Recommended Free All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., March 15, 3 p.m. 2009

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, an American of Indian descent, had a breakthrough year in 2008—his album Kinsmen (Pi) is a paradigm shift, accomplishing his most dramatic and insightful fusion yet of jazz and Indian classical music. It delivers a downright ecstatic jolt, with Mahanthappa’s bright tone gaining energy and depth in the presence of the more stately improvisations of the great Kadri Gopalnath, who pioneered the use of the saxophone in Carnatic music. For this visit, though, he’ll be focusing on material from his fine 2006 album Codebook (Pi), which features original pieces inspired by cryptology and number theory. One track, “The Decider,” maps the Fibonacci sequence to the 12-tone scale, and the rhythmic patterns of other pieces spell the names of Mahanthappa’s band members—pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Francois Moutin, drummer Dan Weiss—in Morse code. These conceptual gambits aren’t necessarily audible on the music’s surface, and trying to parse them won’t make listening to it more pleasurable, but they clearly give the group something to dig into—this is high-octane postbop on a very high level, and Mahanthappa’s heady compositions make it easy for the players to transcend the usual harmonic fallbacks in their solos. His band here is Iyer, Weiss, and Kinsmen bassist Carlo de Rosa. —Peter Margasak

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