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Monday, January 19, 2009

Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition - Apti (Innova, 2008) ****

This album has all the ingredients of good world-fusion jazz: odd-metered rhythms, sudden tempo changes, the blend of different scales, excellent musicianship, varying between sensitive moments and break-neck speed unison phrases, and - usually a rare commodity in the genre - good taste. The Indo-Pak coalition consists of Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone (of Indian origin), Rez Abbasi on guitar and guitar-sitar (of Pakistani origin), and Dan Weiss on tabla (of US origin).

Those who are familiar with Mahanthappa's other releases, will find a different approach here. The long, often complex, highly energetic music we know from his own releases or from his collaborations with Vijay Iyer, makes place for a greater accessibility, with some tracks which are even sweet and mellow, such as the long "Vandanaa Trayee", and "Adana", the next piece. It is all very carefully crafted, with lots of precision in the playing, leaving controlled room for improvisations, and keeping on the safe side of explorations, although the blend of genres between Indian music and jazz is well made. The best pieces are the fastest ones, like the long "IIT", which even has a few classical music phrasings in it, or the yearning "Baladhi", which mixes great composition with beautiful emotional soloing. "You Talk Too Much", the last piece, ends the album in overdrive, at nervous superspeed, no doubt a crowd-pleaser at live performances.

Many other musicians with the skills of this trio fell and fall into the trap of demonstrating their shownmanship for the sake of it. It's a delight to hear how the Indo-Pak Coaltion keep their focus on the music itself, on the interplay. The sheer musicianship makes this already a really enjoyable album, the quality of the music lifts it a level higher. That being said, I like my music a little rawer.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef