Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls (ACT Music)

By Tyler Friedman
Mar. 3, 2015
Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker irrevocably recalibrated the modern ear. With stunning technique, fresh harmonic conception and unrelenting melodicism, Bird (as he was and is known to the hip) set the jazz world on its head. He also raised the hackles of many critics and musicians who found “bebop” overly intellectual and deficiently danceable, thus concluding that jazz was betraying its populist origins.

It would be easy enough to charge Rudresh Mahanthappa with the same apostasy on the basis of his new album Bird Calls, on which saxophonist and composer comes to terms with Bird’s legacy. This is no tribute band and their allegiance is to Bird’s spirit rather than his letter. The majority of the tracks are loosely based on tunes associated with Bird, but by infusing the influence of his South Indian heritage and the post-bebop history of jazz into these points of departure, Mahanthappa and crew make forward-looking jazz whose drive, intensity and adventurousness will satisfy listeners who fancy fusion and even rock.