Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls review – Charlie Parker-themed set from fusion sax master 4/5stars
  

By John Fordham

April 2, 2015

Rudresh Mahanthappa, the US-raised alto saxophonist who astutely fuses western and Indian traditions with mind-bending jazz rhythms, has moved from the fiery, guitar-powered fusion of his 2013 Gamak band to more jazz-rooted materials with this Charlie Parker-inspired album. Still, this being Mahanthappa, the music has a thoroughly contemporary feel – and with no direct Parker covers, the references are cannily oblique. The swoonily anthemic Talin Is Thinking is an inviting variation on Parker’s Mood; Chillin’ is a folksy sax/trumpet dance steered by the leader’s request that his improvisers should bear Relaxin’ At Camarillo in mind; On the DL is an exchange of skimming breaks over a brooding piano pulse, made from a rigorous analysis of the Parker theme Donna Lee. Bassist François Moutin, pianist Matt Mitchell, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and drummer Rudy Royston complete a remarkable quintet, celebrating Mahanthappa’s contention that “I feel I’ve always been playing Bird.”