Friday, June 26, 2009

Carnatic Jazz

Rudresh Mahanthappa's Kinsmen (2008) is the most exciting jazz album I have acquired in some time. I'm not a big fan of eclecticism and too-clever cultural fusions, so my expectations were not high, despite the rave reviews. Expectations overturned big time. To call it "Indo-jazz fusion" doesn't really do it justice. The highlight here is the interplay between the improvisations of the two alto saxophonists, Mahanthappa and Kadri Gopalnath, the former a jazz player in the contemporary New York vein, the latter not a jazz musician at all but an interpreter of South Indian Carnatic music. Gopalnath's energy and off-kilter tonalities bounce off Mahanthappa's cool virtuosity, backed up by a stellar blended rhythm section. Everyone is probing, exploring, learning. You, the eager listener, will do the same.

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