Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rudresh Mahanthappa named Best Alto Saxophonist in JazzTimes' 2017 Expanded Critics' Poll

Rudresh Mahanthappa named “Best Alto Saxophonist” in JazzTimes’ 2017 Expanded Critics’ Poll

Upcoming concerts:

• Friday, March 16 at McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, NJ

• Sunday, March 18 at the ICA, Boston

Mahanthappa’s 2017 Indo-Pak Coalition recording Agrima earned acclaim as one of the best albums of 2017 from Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The New York Times, NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll,
Paste Magazine and more 

Saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa has been named “Best Alto Saxophonist” in the JazzTimes 2017 Expanded Critics Poll, published in the March 2018 issue.  For the poll, critics were asked to focus on artists’ achievements in 2017.  Mahanthappa also came in third in the “Electric/Jazz-Rock/Contemporary Group/Artist” category.

The voting came on the heels of Mahanthappa’s October 2017 recording Agrima with the Indo-Pak Coalition featuring Rez Abbasi on guitar and Dan Weiss on tabla. The recording earned numerous 4-star reviews and wide acclaim as one of the best albums of 2017 from Rolling Stone, The New York Times, NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, Paste Magazine, JazzTimes and many others. The recording was released as a $2.50 download as well as a limited edition deluxe double LP via rudreshm.com.

“It is both humbling and rewarding to have my music recognized by some of the top jazz journalists in the world,” says Mahanthappa who in addition to performing and recording widely with his own bands, is the Director of Jazz at Princeton University.

Mahanthappa and the Indo-Pak Coalition will present two performances in March



Agrima is the long-awaited follow-up to the Indo-Pak Coalition’s 2008 recording Apti, which won praise from The Guardian for its “irresistible urgency.” The recording finds Mahanthappa and the group expanding aesthetic horizons: adding a modified drum set, incorporating effects and electronics, and working with a broader audio canvas overall.  The core of the band’s sound, the vibrant presence of Indian rhythmic and melodic elements in a charged, modern improvisational framework born of the New York jazz scene, remains firmly in place.

"Agrima is a knockout. The Indo-Pak Coalition stack harmonies, textures, dynamics, and peerless rhythmic maneuvering throughout in dazzling combinations. They extend the rich history of Indo-jazz fusion beyond its historical conversational and dialogic boundaries to create a new meta-musical language of their own design.” AllMusic, Thom Jurek 

“Influenced by both Indian folk and American rock, this blazing jazz trio creates an interplay that's immediate with a texture that's unique: Mahanthappa on sax, Rez Abassi on guitar and Dan Weiss splitting his time between tabla and drum kit, burning through glistening melodies. Mahanthappa plays in starts and stops, slow winds and bursts of tricky flurries, but he'll also provide a harmonium-like drone when it's time for Abassi to solo. With its hard-driving feel and a bit of distortion, the group's latest record is just as quick to feel like indie-rock moodmakers Morphine ("Showcase") or punk guitar heroes Television ("Agrima").” Rolling Stone, Christopher R. Weingarten

“Mr. Mahanthappa writes along the divide between contemporary jazz and South Asian classical, always with a sense of acute direction and well-hewn architecture. But it’s his trio’s synergy that gives Agrima what it needs: possibility, irony, tenderness.” NY Times, Giovanni Russonello

“The excitement here is large and wildly contagious.” The Buffalo News, Jeff Simon

“I’m going to spare you the comparisons to other jazz sax players and just flat-out say that Rudresh Mahanthappa is one of the best players today in terms of creativity and having a distinctive voice… Over the last 50 years, many artists have combined Indian music with jazz and rock, but nobody has done it quite like this. No matter what section of the store you file it in, Agrima is an outstanding release.” Expose, Jon Davis

“Mahanthappa uses his knife-like alto saxophone in many different contexts, but on this project he returns to that of an immigrant’s son trying to integrate his South Asian heritage into his beloved American jazz and rock. Working with guitarist Rez Abbasi and percussionist Dan Weiss, Mahanthappa employs his Charlie Parker-like speed, a tasteful dose of electronica and chameleonic themes that could thrive on either continent to fashion a triumphant fusion.” JazzTimes, Geoffrey Himes

“Mahanthappa achieves a remarkably orchestral palette with this session, featuring Rez Abbasi’s guitar and the drum/ table multiplicity of Dan Weiss. Certainly one of the most consistently exciting discs to emerge in the past year.” The World According to Rob, Robert Bush

“Indian music and NYC jazz isn’t a typical match of influences, and yet with his 2017 release Agrima, it’s as if the saxophonist has achieved a certain normalcy of presentation, to the point where an unconventional sound is as embraceable as taking your next breath. The core of Agrima is Indian music, sometimes as a melodic influence and other times imposing its will upon a piece rhythmically. But the house of the album is built with the raw materials of an indie-rock edge and contemporary grooves and electronic effects, and it’s why Agrima sits plumb with previous Mahanthappa recordings while also representing something new…Everything about this album is wonderful. And what it says about Mahanthappa’s willingness to refuse to sit still is promising as hell.” Bird is the Worm, Dave Sumner

“The core of the band's sound, the vibrant presence of Indian rhythmic and melodic elements in a charged, modern improvisational framework born of the New York jazz scene, remains firmly in place, but Mahanthappa's alto is transformed in places by software-driven effects to create strange processed timbres, echoes, decays and soundscapes.” Nextbop.com, Sébastien Hélary

“The alto saxophonist’s wind-tunnel control and technique are as breathtaking as always. The themes are more distinctly Indian, and darker, and more ambitious. Guitarist Rez Abbasi takes his tunefulness to new levels. And let’s not stop with the music: let’s say the hell with imperialist historical smog and unite India with Pakistan.” New York Music Daily. Alan Young

“There isn’t another band quite like this…These are three distinct talents, unfettered in pursuit of the brutish beauty of their collective vision, like the Indo-jazz version of Cream. Nearly a decade between albums, but worth the wait.” JazzTimes, Britt Robson

“There is individual virtuosity, at almost every turn. But the larger point of this album is the transformation of materials in a process of real-time exchange—a meeting of minds and methods that takes no possibilities for granted.” NPR Music, Nate Chinen

“…The second recording by alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and his Indo-Pak Coalition goes beyond South-Asian/Jazz fusion, incorporating drums, electronics, and a greater sense of power and adventure… As a result, the group reunites with a fresh attack and broader range of tools, not recreating the excellent debut but creating something wider and, to my ears, richer… Agrima is a remarkable step in Mahanthappa's music because it takes his Indo-Pak Coalition and its music and makes us hear it and feel it as much more than an experiment in cross-cultural fusion. It is a pleasure to listen to these tracks and forget about the source of the melodies or the intelligence behind the musical melding of cultures. It impacts you more elementally than that: as great music that gives individual expression to three compelling personalities. And that's what great jazz does every time out.” Pop Matters, Will Layman

“With Agrima, Mahanthappa continues his penchant for creating sounds that are forward-leaning yet highly accessible, all while honoring various traditions.” Jazziz, John Frederick Moore

“The music is often fierce, sometimes hypnotic. Mahanthappa's searing saxophone careens over Weiss' rock solid rhythm and Abbasi's mesmeric guitar on "Rasikapriya."  "Alap," the brief opener, begins with Abbasi's electro-sacred tone. Weiss' tabla bubbles in, a luminescent sparkle of electronics paints a bright backdrop, and Mahanthappa's saxophone offers up a tranquil prayer. Then it's off into an insistent, cutting-edge, twenty-first century foray into the sounds of southern Asia—the deep roots—blended with the newer, growing roots of American jazz improvisation.” Allaboutjazz, Don McClenaghan

“Under the banner the Indo-Pak Coalition, the group intensely communicates joy and multi-textured sophistication. This is arresting music that takes plenty of chances yet feels entirely accessible, particularly for fans of jazz-rock fusion seeking something extraordinary.” The Denver Post, Bret Saunders

“If you’re a jazz fan who embraces music which has few boundaries, Mahanthappa, Weiss and Abbasi have created something you should hear.” Audiophile Audition, Doug Simpson

“This excellent album is like an elegant railway system linking jazz, folk, Hindustani, Pakistani Qawwali, Middle Eastern music and the chamber music style of the post-serialist and the avant-garde, 21st century conservatoire. If this sounds like quite a mouthful listeners will be delighted that despite the matrix of sound, the music is quite the distillation of it all in the singular voice of this Indo-Pak Coalition. Still, to describe it as such gives the impression of overcooking when in fact the whole project is a masterpiece of subtlety… Agrima is definitely worth its weight in gold.” JazzdaGama, Raul da Gama

Few musicians share the ability of alto saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. What has materialized is a sound that hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form that reflects Mahanthappa’s own experience growing up a second-generation Indian-American. 

Hailed by the New York Times as possessing “a roving intellect and a bladelike articulation,” Mahanthappa has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year for six of seven years running in DownBeat Magazine’s International Critics’ Polls (2011-2013, 2015-2017), and for five consecutive years by the Jazz Journalists’ Association (2009-2013) and again in 2016. He won alto saxophonist of the year in the 2016 and 2017 JazzTimes Magazine Critics’ Poll. In April 2013, he received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, one of the most prominent arts awards in the world. In 2015, he was named a United States Artists Fellow. In 2016, he was named the Director of Jazz and the Associate Director of the Program in Musical Performance at Princeton University. 

Mahanthappa is a Yamaha artist and uses Vandoren reeds exclusively.