Thursday, July 09, 2015

Rudresh Mahanthappa - Bird Calls (ACT, 2015)

Tribute albums seem to be a dime a dozen these days, with mountains of CDs and terabytes of data being spent playing the music of the past masters with bowed head and hand on heart. So it very refreshing to hear alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa develop his tribute a jazz icon, Charlie Parker in this case, by writing his own songs and developing his own personal musical conception. While Parker may influence him, his music is music is thoroughly modern and not durative in the slightest. On this quest he is joined by Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Matt Mitchell on piano on Francois Moutin on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The album is split between short pieces, numbered “Bird Calls” which sometimes focus on an individual musician or smaller subset of the group and longer names full band performances. “On the DL” has fast trumpet and alto saxophone trading sharp turns on top of the piano, bass and drums section. That subset gets their own ripping feature before O’Farrill’s punchy trumpet powers them back to a wicked full band conclusion. The rhythm group kicks in with a nearly formal sound on “Chillin’” before some powerful and deep trumpet sound propels the music into gear and lays the foundation for Mahanthappa to take a wonderfully tart alto saxophone solo, which sounds ripe and blazingly fast. On “Talin is Thinking” the full band enters the fray playing at a medium tempo and with a strong unified feel. The leader builds to another fantastic solo with the rest of the band pulling for him and delivering loud and clear support. “Both Hands” comes in screaming hot with Mahanthappa just killing it supported by Moutin’s great propulsive bass. The music is complex enough to make your head spin, yet remains firmly accessible, as is evidenced by the giddy piano, bass and drums section and daredevil saxophone and trumpet dogfight that ends the performance. Strutting piano and confident horns open “Maybe Later” with some first-rate drumming from Rudy Royston. Mahanthappa is in magnificent form, he is very well controlled at high speed, twisting and turning in whatever direction he chooses. The group finally slows down to a ballad pace on “Sure Why Not” with lush alto saxophone and trumpet aided by soft and supple brushed percussion. There is some more excellent bass work and a fine trumpet solo tops off the song. “Man, Thanks for Coming” ends the album with a short riotous blast of fun, where the full band rockets out of the starting gate for a short and sweet performance where everybody gets a piece of the action at high speed before stopping on a dime. This was an excellent album, I think Charlie Parker would be thrilled with this, the solos are fast, well controlled and seem like a natural evolution of bebop, and the whole band is to be commended for making excellent and vibrant music. Bird Calls -

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