Rudresh Mahanthappa, Gamak

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 02.07.13 in Reviews

Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa sometimes looks for ways to bridge jazz and South Indian music, as on his celebrated two-alto collaboration with Kadri Gopalnath, Kinsmen. On Gamak, Mahanthappa’s point of departure is the gamakas, the specific ways Indian classical musicians sculpt a note: sliding into it from just above or below, intensifying it with wide or narrow leaps, ending it with an upward swoop; it’s these rococo designs that give Indian melodies their distinctive character. Mahanthappa has written striking tunes with the same sort of pungent inflections (“Abhogi,” “Stay I,” “We’ll Make More”), developing the details with input from his frontline partner, microtonal guitarist David Fiuczynski. Mahanthappa’s bandmate in Jack DeJohnette’s quintet, Fiuczynski makes Indian swerves and blues string-bends sound like they’re part of the same tradition. With its Carnatic saxophone jitters and slide guitar, “Abhogi” sounds like a Gopalnath/Beefheart mashup. Dan Weiss applies his knowledge of tabla beat-cycles to the trap set; Francois Moutin is the jazz anchor on bass.