Indian-American Jazz-great Rudresh Mahanthappa launching new projects

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Alto saxophonist, composer and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa with his Indo-Pak Coalition bandmates Rez Abbasi on guitar,and Dan Weiss on tabla. (Photo: courtesy Mahanthappa)

Award-winning Indian-American alto saxophonist, composer and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa announced some new initiatives for 2019.

This Feb. 9, his Indo-Pak Coalition band is playing is playing its first U.S. show in almost a year on Saturday, Feb. 9, at  Miller Theatre, in New York City. This comes on the heels of a tour of Europe and Brazil, which Mahanthappa called “amazing.” culminating with a final concernt at Porto Alegre Jazz Festival. Calling it the band’s “best show of the run” Mahanthappa provided a video link to the the entire concert, in a mailing Feb. 2.

Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition conceived in 2008, includes Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Rez Abbasi on guitar, and Dan Weiss on tabla. It was hailed by The New York Times as “a trio equally grounded in folk tradition and jazz improvisation, propos[ing] a social pact as well as a musical ideal.” The ensemble’s was Apti, followed by Agrima.

One of his new projects this year is a trio called Movable Mirror with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Dave King.  “It’s a sort of 21st Century reimagining of Sonny Rollins Live at the Village Vanguard,” Mahanthappa, who has been described by the prestigious online music magazine Pitchfork, as “jaw-dropping… one of the finest saxophonists going,” will be hitting the road in June with a U.S. tour.

He is also launching a jazz festival at Princeton University where he is the director of jazz. That festival will debut on April 13.  The lineup includes Joel Frahm, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Charenee Wade, Pedrito Martinez, Donny McCaslin, and headliner Dave Holland, Grammy Award-winner bassist and 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Admission is free to most sets. For more details about the festivals and the free events, visit music.princeton.edu.

Princeton University touts it as “The world’s newest jazz festival, a day-long, free, outdoor lineup of today’s top jazz stars coming together in exciting formations and alongside Princeton University’s exceptional student jazz ensembles.” , will take place 12PM-6:30PM on Alexander Beach, outside Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus.

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

The following events are free and unticketed:

12-1PM: Small Group X with Special Guest Joel Frahm, saxophone
1:20-2:20PM: Small Group A with Tia Fuller, saxophone and Ingrid Jensen, trumpet
2:40-3:40PM: Charenée Wade Quartet with Wade on vocals, Oscar Perez, piano, Paul Beaudry, bass, and Darrell Green, drums
4-5PM:  Pedrito Martinez Group with Martinez on percussion and lead vocals, Isaac Delgado Jr. keyboards/vocals, Sebastian Natal, electric bass/vocals, and Jhair Sala, percussion
5:20-6:30PM: Donny McCaslin Quartet with McCaslin on saxophones, Jason Lindner, keyboards, Jonathan Maron, bass, and Zach Danziger, drums

This event is ticketed:

8PM: Dave Holland, bass and Princeton University Jazz Small Group I

“We are very excited to launch this new festival bringing together a wide array of today’s most creative and accomplished jazz artists performing with our remarkably talented students,” Mahanthappa says in a statement on the University website. He expressed the hope that it would become an annual tradition that attracts the community at large.

Mahanthappa, a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a Masters in Music from DePaul University,  has more than a dozen albums to his credit, including Bird Calls, which topped many critics’ best-of-year lists for 2015. The Indian-American musician has been named alto saxophonist of the year for seven of eight years running in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics’ Polls (2011-2013, 2015-2018), and for five consecutive years by the Jazz Journalists’ Association (2009-2013) and again in 2016. He has numerous other awards and recognitions over his career.

He has also received the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and is currently the Anthony H.P. Lee ’79 Director of Jazz at Princeton University.

Born in 1971, in Trieste, Italy to Indian parents, Mahanthappa was brought up in Boulder, Colorado and gained proficiency playing everything from current pop to Dixieland. He moved to New York in 1997 where he formed his own quartet featuring another recognized Indian-American musician, pianist Vijay Iyer. Their band brought out a series of albums including, Black Water, Mother Tongue and Codebook, “each highlighting Mahanthappa’s inventive methodologies and deeply personal approach to composition,” Princeton University said on its website. He and Iyer also formed the duo Raw Materials.

In 2008, Mahanthappa came close to his parents’ Carnatic music roots, and partnered with fellow altoist Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble for Kinsmen, which garnered wide acclaim. Mahanthappa has also worked with Jack DeJohnette, Mark Dresser, Danilo Pérez, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and co-led other bands. He has also brought out works commissioned by Ragamala Dance, and PRISM Saxophone Quartet.

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