Rudresh Mahanthappa Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Rudresh Mahanthappa Quintet 

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The alto saxist Rudy Mahanthappa dedicates one piece on his debut CD to the dual influence of Ornette Coleman and Steve Coleman. In fact, though, the entire album makes clear that both Colemans (not related) have left their mark on Mahanthappa. His more open-ended improvisations benefit from the pan-tonal perspective of Ornette; on the other hand, his angular contours and top-of-the-beat rhythms bubble up out of the hip-bop cauldron of the spirited M-Base bands led by the other Coleman, with whom Mahanthappa has studied. Beyond this musical genealogy, the Indian-American, Italian-born Mahanthappa can flat out play the horn, with a broad swash of tone reminiscent of Arthur Blythe's and a forceful rhythmic momentum that sends his solos hurtling to their conclusion. Only 25, Mahanthappa has already turned a few heads in town, and his first album, Yatra, should turn a few more. It stands up well among the slew of recent local debuts, thanks to Mahanthappa's colorful improvisations and overarching sense of purpose. All the music--from a quiet duet for alto and bass to the full-throttle quartet tracks--embraces a single, focused perspective, and in our current period of often forced eclecticism, that alone sets this album apart. Mahanthappa's appearance at the Green Mill celebrates the CD's release; the CD itself represents an expansion into the jazz arena by AEMMP Records, a student-run label at Columbia College that produces and markets one album a year as a class project. This one deserves an A. The album's sidemen will perform with Mahanthappa, and it's a good group: the sparkling pianist Jim Trompeter; the equally versatile Larry Kohut (bass) and Jerry Steinhilber (drums); and bass trumpeter Ryan Schultz, whose playing continues to deepen and expand and whose interaction with Mahanthappa forms several of the album's highlights. Friday, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552. Mahanthappa will give a free concert Friday, noon, Chicago Music Mart, DePaul Center, 333 S. State; 362-6212. He also hosts a jam session ("Mahanthappa's Monday madness") Monday, 9:30 PM, the Bulls, 1916 N. Lincoln Park West; 337-3000. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.


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