Few musicians share the ability of alto saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. What has materialized is a sound that hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form that reflects Mahanthappa’s own experience growing up a second-generation Indian-American. The current manifestations of that trajectory include his latest project Bird Calls, which was issued in February 2015.
Though it pays homage to one of jazz’s Founding Fathers and arrives at the outset of Charlie Parker’s 95th birthday year, Bird Calls is not a tribute album. There isn’t a single Parker composition to be found on the album. But Bird’s DNA is strongly present in all of these pieces, each of which takes a particular Parker melody or solo as its source of inspiration then wholly reimagined and re-contextualized by Mahanthappa and his quintet.
Mahanthappa has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and numerous commission awards from the MAP Fund, Chamber Music America, and American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year four of the past five years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Polls and for five years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association. In April 2013, he received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, one of the most prominent arts awards in the world.