Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition – Agrima
(Mahanthappa Music. Vinyl or download. Review by Jon Turney)
Complex repeat figures mirrored on guitar and horn in turn, or played in perfect unison, a dizzy headrush of see-sawing alto sax, pieces that build rhythmic energy and intensity as they go, sometimes ending in an all-out thrash. Some of the takeaways from the Indo-Pak coalition’s follow up to their debut almost a decade ago are reminiscent of jazz-rock from the early 1970s. Indeed, leader Rudresh Mahanthappa says he encouraged guitarist Rez Abbasi and percussionist Dan Weiss to think they were making a rock album.
This fusion project begins from a different mix of ingredients, though – Indian melodic and rhythmic patterns frame the improvisations. The brew is also flavoured with a range of guitar sounds, occasional electronic spicing, and Weiss adding a trap set to the tabla he played on their first release, often playing both at once.
There are cooler interludes, usually with the trio buoyed gently by the tabla, but the heat is turned up high much of the time. Leaving out notes is not an option much considered here.The leader’s sinuous virtuosity on alto combines with Weiss’s comprehensive address to the traps – I swear he sounds like Mahavishnu-era Billy Cobham on one cut – to produce engagingly urgent flow.
Mahanthappa varies his sax timbre: sometimes a bluesy edge; sometimes a near violin-like swoop; occasionally as dry at fast tempos as a fly in a bottle. It is usually he who builds on the clearly stated themes with fluent elaboration. Abbasi is given less space, but makes brilliant use of it – I’d have gladly heard more from him here. For that, though, you can turn to his just-released new recording Unfiltered Universe on Whirlwind, on which Mahanthappa and Weiss feature again. Before that, for a $2 download from the leader’s website, give this nicely-realised boundary-spanning effort a whirl.
Agrima is released on 17 October