Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green - Apex (Pi Recordings, 2010)

This is an auspicious meeting between great alto saxophonists of different generations. Rudresh Mahanthappa who has burst on to the scene in recent years with a series of progressive and thoughtful albums drawing on mathematics and linguistics along with a deep knowledge of the history of jazz is joined by Chicago based improviser and educator Bunky Green. Green came up in the shadow of bebop, developing his own sound as a recording artist and as a respected teacher. They are supported in this collaboration by Jason Moran on piano, Francois Moutin on bass and either Damion Reid or Jack DeJohnette on drums. The music on this album is continually exciting and exploratory, the two saxophonists trading ideas and swirling about. While the to men clearly have a lot of respect for each other, they push and pull at each other throughout building the tension and release that makes for great dynamic music, aided and abetted by the rhythm section that is exemplary, providing a firm foundation for the front line improvisers and making their own statements as well. The introductory "Welcome" sees the saxophonists intertwining and providing an opening for the music to come. Moving into "Summit" the music grows fast and complex with the saxophonists bobbing and weaving and creating streams and textures of music that are cotinually evolving. "Soft" and "Playing with Stones" develop in suite like formations, as the music patiently spins out and tells fascinating stories. The saxophones are tart and bright and maintain a jubilant tone, as if both men are thrilled to find a conversation partner they have so much in common with. The deep and blue "Lamenting" is a powerful ballad that is set by the piano, bass and drum team before the saxophones drift in with a yearning cry of loss. The appropriately epic final track "The Journey" is a lengthy collective improvisation that evolves in two discreet parts that demonstrates the development of the alto saxophone in jazz over the past half century. This was a very exciting and continually interesting album that filled the whole 78 minute length of the CD and left the listener wishing for more. Mathanthappa and Green were a wonderfully complementary team and the music that they created along with their fellow band members was thrilling and memorable. Apex -

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