Performance Saturday, April 21, 2012 | 10 PM

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Zankel Hall
Alto saxophonist of the year (DownBeat Critics Poll and Jazz Journalist Association), Rudresh Mahanthappa presents the New York premiere of the Samdhi Suite in its complete form. This striking electro-acoustic work combines the complex melodic and rhythmic elements of Carnatic (South Indian) music with jazz in ways previously unheard. "Fusion has never sounded like this before" (All Music Guide).


  • Rudresh Mahanthappa, Alto Saxophone and Laptop
  • David Gilmore, Electric Guitar
  • Rich Brown, Electric Bass
  • Anantha R. Krishnan, Mridangam
  • Gene Lake, Drums


  • Rudresh Mahanthappa

    Consistently heralded by critics as one of the most original composers in his field, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's prolific contributions to contemporary jazz have earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship, and commissions to create new work from the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation, Chamber Music America, and the American Composers Forum. His rare ability to synthesize South Indian musical concepts with a seemingly boundless range of unexpected influences frequently characterizes him as one of the most important artists in music today-a distinction the Jazz Journalists Association has echoed by naming him Alto Saxophonist of the Year three consecutive times.

    Mahanthappa's critically acclaimed 2010 release, Apex (with alto saxophone legend Bunky Green, featuring Jason Moran and Jack DeJohnette), was widely lauded as one of the year's best recordings, as noted by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, Village Voice, The Boston Globe, and JazzTimes. The material he recorded in 2008 with Carnatic sax guru Kadri Gopalnath for their Kinsmen release displayed a wholly different concept, executed with equally breathtaking chops. And since the 2009 release of Apti, the tabla and guitar-studded Indo-Pak Coalition has provided a more playful take on Mahanthappa's symbiosis between the music of his ancestors and the jazz he grew up listening to in Colorado. Most recently, he signed a multi-record deal with the major European label ACT Music + Vision, the first release being his electro-acoustic Samdhi.

    Though the formats vary widely, Mahanthappa's purpose shines through them all. By meticulously searching for a new swath of musical possibilities, he casts a wide net, incorporating inspiration from the gamut of his experience-from his days as an undergrad at the Berklee College of Music to his studies in DePaul University's jazz composition master's program to his professional work with artists in North America, Europe, India, and beyond.

    Mahanthappa is a Yamaha artist and uses Vandoren reeds exclusively.

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  • David Gilmore

    Over the past two decades, guitarist and composer David Gilmore has recorded and performed with some of the most highly influential and innovative artists in modern music, including Wayne Shorter, Muhal Richard Abrams, Sam Rivers, Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Dave Douglas, Cassandra Wilson, Christian McBride, Uri Caine, Randy Brecker, Lenny White, and David Sanborn. He has appeared on more than 50 recordings and has been a major presence on the international touring scene. He has also recorded and toured extensively with pop artists Joss Stone and Meshell Ndegeocello. Gilmore's debut recording as a leader, Ritualism (Kashka Records), received major international critical praise and was nominated in 2002 for Debut CD of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. His sophomore release in 2006 entitled Unified Presence (RKM Music) featured jazz heavies Christian McBride, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Ravi Coltrane. He has twice been a recipient of Chamber Music America's New Works Composer Grant, and his compositions have been recorded and performed by renowned jazz artists like Cassandra Wilson, Stefon Harris, Steve Coleman, Lenny White, Trilok Gurtu, and others. His playing has been compared to guitarists with styles as diverse as George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, and Leo Nocentelli. Gilmore's latest recording-featuring Luis Perdomo, Antonio Sanchez, Marcus Strickland, and Ben Williams-is scheduled for release this spring on Kashka Records.

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  • Rich Brown

    Rich Brown has been an active member of Toronto's culturally diverse music scene since 1992. He taught himself to play bass at the age of 17 by listening to such artists as Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Jimmy Haslip, and Alain Caron. Later, he expanded his vocabulary by drawing upon influences outside the bass realm. Brown currently leads his own modern jazz group called rinsethealgorithm, and has performed and recorded with some of the finest musicians in the world, including Carol Welsman, Jane Siberry, Glenn Lewis, Dapp Theory, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, James "Blood" Ulmer, Vernon Reid, Andy Narell, Kim Mitchell, David Clayton-Thomas, Bruce Cockburn, and Hermeto Pascoal, to name a few. He has appeared in the feature film Glitter, starring Mariah Carey, and the made-for-TV movie The Natalie Cole Story, starring Natalie Cole. He also appeared in the television series Soul Food.

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  • Anantha R. Krishnan

    The grandson and disciple of mridangam maestro Shri Palghat R. Raghu, Anantha R. Krishnan started learning the fundamentals of the mridangam under his uncle Shri R. Ramkumar and then began an official tutelage under his grandfather at the age of five. He has since received many awards from traditional organizations of Carnatic music, most notably the Madras Music Academy. Krishnan has also twice received the State of the Arts Award from the New Jersey government, as part of the National Endowment of the Arts' effort to promote cultural awareness in the US. In 1999, he was invited to perform for the millennium celebrations in Berlin at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and at the EXPO 2000 in Hanover. A year later, he performed at the historic Sadler's Wells' festival of Indian music in London with legendary vocalist Shri M. Balamuralikrishna. Recently, Krishnan went back to Germany at the invitation of British experimental guitarist Fred Frith to perform for the seminal New Jazz Meeting for SWR 2, a national radio station in Baden-Baden. In October 2008, he was invited to premiere Rudresh Mahanthappa's Samdhi project at the Pittsburgh International Festival of the Firsts. In May 2009, he was featured in the Miles from India tour, presenting the music of Miles Davis using Indian instrumentation. Academically, he holds a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a master's from Mills College. He now serves on the faculty of A. R. Rahman's music conservatory in Chennai, India.

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  • Gene Lake

    Gene Lake is an all-around drummer who cut his teeth on funk and jazz. He embodies the contradictions of modern music. His resume reflects his passion for the great funk icons of the 1970s and '80s, such as Parliament-Funkadelic and The Time, as well as his longstanding ties to the jazz world. Lake has been performing for almost 10 years with a stunningly diverse range of artists: from the R&B group Surface in the 1980s to "new wave" R&B acts like Meshell Ndegeocello, Maxwell, and D'Angelo in the '90s; from jazz innovators Steve Coleman and Henry Threadgill to fusion legends Joe Zawinul and Marcus Miller; from jazz/rap group Opus Akoben to acts that defy categorization, such as the wildly original rock/funk/jazz fusion group Screaming Headless Torsos. Lake was born in St. Louis, where he lived until age 14. After moving to New York City, he attended the High School of Music and Art. He later attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. His early childhood exposure to such creative institutions as the Black Artists Group in St. Louis is reflected in his constant desire to seek out the musically innovative and adventurous, even as he remains grounded in the basics of funk. Lake credits various drummers with influencing his musical style, from Diamond (of the Ohio Players) to Omar Hakim (of Weather Report). In the future, he plans to spend more time writing music that synthesizes and transforms the many influences from which he emerged.

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Playing With Stones
Rudresh Mahanthappa
Act Music & Vision

Jeff Tamarkin on Rudresh Mahanthappa

For Rudresh Mahanthappa, the idea of melding Indian melodic elements with jazz did not come entirely naturally, despite his Indian-American background. Growing up in Boulder, Colorado, says the award-winning alto saxophonist, Indian devotional music was often played in his home, but it was rock and electric-jazz fusion that made the young Rudresh want to play music. "I relate to lots of elements in Indian culture," he says, "but I don't speak my parents' language, which seems to be this great tool of judgment: How Indian are you if you don't speak your parents' language? But I feel like I do, because I've done it through music by going on a journey of self-discovery."

Indeed, on albums such as Apti, with his Indo-Pak Coalition; Kinsmen, with Indian alto Kadri Gopalnath; Apex, with American alto Bunky Green; and last year's Samdhi, Mahanthappa has explored in depth the crossroads between the music of his parents' homeland and the jazz he's loved since childhood.

The music on Samdhi—which is the focus of his acoustic-electric performance in Zankel Hall—was the direct result of his being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for music composition in 2007. It took three years from the time Mahanthappa premiered the work until it was ready to make its way out into the world on disc. The concept behind Samdhi, says Mahanthappa, "was to get into some very specific nitty-gritty of South Indian melodic ornamentation and detailed approaches to rhythm. There are a lot of aspects of Indian music where I felt I knew how something worked, but I didn't know why it worked a particular way. Part of my goal was to get into some of the heavy theoretical concepts and try to understand: Why do you guys do this and why don't you do this?"

Although Mahanthappa has been highly lauded for his exploration of Indian motifs within jazz—both DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines have named him Alto Saxophonist of the Year—he doesn't want to be pigeonholed as "that Indian alto guy. To some degree, you can't get away from who you are, but it's very important to be an individual and to have a unique voice," he says. "It's a fine balance."

—Jeff Tamarkin is the associate editor of JazzTimes magazine.

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with The Joyce and George Wein Foundation in memory of Joyce Wein.