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Album review: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green's 'Apex'

September 29, 2010 | 11:04 am

Apex240 Consider this face-off between alto saxophonists the ideal "get-to-know-you" session for those unfamiliar with them. A gifted New York City-based player just on the doorstep of his 40th birthday, Mahanthappa has earned accolades both for incorporating South Indian influences on his own recordings and for backing high-profile players such Jack DeJohnette. Green, on the other hand, at 75 may be the greater obscurity for casual jazz fans, despite having worked with Charles Mingus before becoming an educator and bandleader in Chicago.

But Green has long been a musician's musician, as evidenced by the group assembled for this recording. Featuring DeJohnette splitting time with the athletic Damion Reid on drums as well as pianist Jason Moran, the record may be a showcase for saxophone but is marked by dynamic ensemble play. On the aptly named "Summit," Green and Mahanthappa engage in a playful call-and-response before coming together atop DeJohnette's skittering rhythm, and "Who?" is a knotty tangle of saxophone acrobatics with Green matching Mahanthappa stride for twisting stride. Framed by a powerful solo by Moran and an elastic bass intro by Francois Moutin, the insistent melody of "The Journey" marks one of the record's highlights with an ever-increasing intensity that seems almost ready to explode.

Though ostensibly a cross-generational summit meeting, it's striking — if not entirely surprising — how well the players mesh together. With a little luck, it won't be the last time.

— Chris Barton

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green
Three and a half stars
Pi Recordings