Written by Grant Jackson from NPR
Rudresh Mahanthappa creates an explosive blend of South Indian classical music and progressive jazz. A Guggenheim Fellow who’s been named the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Alto Saxophonist of the Year” for four years running, Mahanthappa makes innovative music that reflects his experience as a second-generation Indian-American. He shares his fascinating style and story on this episode of Piano Jazz.
Mahanthappa was born in Boulder, Colo. He studied at Berklee College of Music and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in jazz composition from Chicago’s DePaul University in 1998. He began his serious study of Indian music under saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath, who used the instrument to explore the Carnatic music of southern India. Mahanthappa has continued to collaborate with Gopalnath on album work and concerts; the pair has also traveled to India on grant-sponsored projects.
A fixture of the contemporary New York scene, Mahanthappa leads or co-leads several projects, including the Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet with Vijay Iyer or Craig Taborn on piano, François Moutin on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. Mahanthappa has recorded more than a dozen albums as a leader. His latest album is Gamak, with the rhythm section of Moutin and Weiss, and features the work of guitarist David “Fuse” Fiuczynski.
Recorded Feb. 20, 2013.