The shadow of Charlie Parker falls over every subsequent jazz alto saxophonist to a greater or lesser extent and there have been many reworkings of his bebop tunes. The Bird influences are beneath the surface here, each piece being an original from the saxophonist and very much in keeping with his familiar mix of jazz and South Indian music but in addition each has as its source and inspiration a Charlie Parker tune.
Sometimes there is a hint in the title, so Mahanthappa’s Chillin’ has Parker’s Relaxin’ At Camarillo in its DNA, just as On The DL has Donna Lee there in the background.
With Mahanthappa are Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Matt Mitchell on piano, François Moutin on double bass and Rudy Royston on drums, and while each gets a look-in, the leader and his forceful, hard blowing alto sound dominates.
Particularly powerful is Talin Is Talking (with Parker’s Mood in there somewhere) which makes the most of dark, rich harmonies in the alto/trumpet harmonies and in the stately marching bass line. Mitchell decorates with high waterfall of notes. Both Hands (Dexterity) opens at a blistering pace with solos with brief solos from O’Farrill and Mitchell before mellowing briefly and then reasserting itself with more solos. Gopuram (Steeplechase) blends beautifully jazz with the lilt of South Indian music just as Parker had done with jazz and Cuban music.
It’s all thoroughly 21st century New York in sound and style but it shares the intensity of emotion and instrumental dexterity of the equally take-no-prisoners jazz that was being heard in the same city nearly 70 years ago.
Categories: CD review