Monday, November 1, 2010

Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition with Abassi & Weiss

South Asian classical music has one of the richest heritages of any on the planet. In the right hands the tradition can be extended into Western improvisational contexts with movingly impressive results. We've had Mahavishnu and Shakti, of course, and others.

One of the best of recent endeavors comes out of a meeting of three of the most accomplished of the new wave of players. Alto saxman Rudresh Mahanthappa heads up the group known as the Indo-Pak Coalition. Their CD Apti (Innova 709), out for a couple of years, is one of the most singular and moving of such efforts. The trio includes Rez Abbasi on electric and acoustic guitar and electric sitar, and Dan Weiss on tabla.

I've covered all three players on the Gapplegate blogs, and for good reason. Mahanthappa is one of the more exciting alto men to come along in recent years. He has an unmistakable sound and a way of improvising in complex chromatic-modal blazes of fire that soar with their own trajectory. Abassi is a guitarist that has gotten my attention for a number of years as an extraordinary adept improviser who manages to negotiate the thickets between McLaughlin, Metheny and Abercrombie without sounding like any of them. And technically he is one of those monsters, but one who places personal expression and good musical sense before pyrotechnics. A rapidly articulated line always has a musical reason for existence with Rez. Dan Weiss is a drummer who to me did the incredible: he played a CD-length drum set solo based on the talas and bols of Hindustani music (see my pages for a review of that recording). And he did some amazing things there. He also has played with some notable others and has a couple of interesting recordings with his own group as well. Here he is on tabla, and I suppose I should not be surprised (I've never heard him on tabla in any extended way) but he is in excellent form.

What the Indo-Pak Coalition do on Apti is, like Shakti before them, combine rhythmic, structural and melodic aspects of South Asian music with the harmonic and improvisatory components of the jazz that each of them do so well. The Coalition do it all with their own distinct musical identities intact. It is music of a very high level of accomplishment and innovation. Mahanthappa and Abassi show mastery in what they play, the ensemble routines are quite complexly appealing and Weiss plays some very forward moving tabla.

Apti takes Indo-Pak-jazz-fusion onto very personal turf in ways that are exhilarating and filled with musical abundance. It is awe-inspiring music.

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