Monday, June 1, 2020

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio, with Francois Moutin, Rudy Royston

If you like many of us these days need to reaffirm creative movement forward, turn to alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and his Hero Trio (Whirlwind Recordings  WR4760), the album and the group. No doubt some readers will know Rudresh as the brilliant principal alto sax master of our times. If not here is a chance to hear him do music more familiar to you, perhaps. As he states in the liners, after some 15 albums of his own compositions, he turns here to the music of some of his heroes, prime influences and inspirations, making the music over in his own special musical image. And why not? In a way this is a companion album to his Bird Calls, widening the scope somewhat while also turning to classic material and paring down to an essentialist trio with an excellent sense of adventure.

So we get some imaginative makeovers of choice lines and songs--of Charlie Parker ("Red Cross," "Barbados," and "Dewey Square"), John Coltrane ("26-2"), Ornette Coleman ("Sadness") Keith Jarrett ("The Windup"), Johnny Cash ("Ring of Fire,"). Stevie Wonder ("Overjoyed"), and some American Songbook Standards ("I Can't Get Started," "I'll Remember April")--the latter two in part Rudresh's homage to the sax trios of Sonny Rollins and Lee Konitz, and so also "Sadness" especially for Ornette's sax trio work.

This is notably Rudresh's first saxophone trio outing and it swings, rocks and opens up nicely in the hands of Rudresh and his colleagues double-bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston. The arrangements are subtle, open and most conducive to Mahanthappa's hard-driving, innovative line weaving and the very compatible accompaniment, the second and third improvisational voices from Moutin and Royston.

Every number undertaken sounds freshly re-minted, Mahanthappian, transformed into something very contemporary and admirably improvisatory. The trio cooks with joyous abandon yet structural smarts too. It is a most stirring outing, something you will no doubt want to hear, perhaps also to have! Recommended.

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