Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa came to New York City in 1997 and immediately began to integrate himself into the jazz scene. Work as a sideman was steady, but his true passion was to become a bandleader, something he attempted on his debut album Yatra. Although the album was received well, the limited distribution kept Mahanthappa's name from getting out and he stayed in the area to continue performing. More side work and a teaching gig kept him busy, but in 2002, he came back to the studio and laid down Black Water for Red Giant Records.
Mahanthappa has frequently been listed in Down Beat's Critics Poll since 2003, and was named both "#1 Rising Star Jazz Artist" and "#1 Rising Star Alto Saxophonist" in the 2010 poll. In 2011, he was voted the #1 Alto Saxophonist of the Year by the 59th Annual Down Beat Critics Poll.
He has been awarded numerous grants for his compositions, including being given the NY Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Music (2006), three Rockefeller MAP grants, and two New York State Council on the Arts grants.
In 2007, he was named a Guggenheim fellow to pursue his interest in how Indian Carnatic music can inform and serve as an inspiration for American jazz.
The Jazz Journalists Association named Mahanthappa the Alto Saxophonist of the Year in 2009, 2010, and 2011.