NPR 'First Listen': Rudresh Mahanthappa

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Monday October 09, 2017

From NPR Music WBUR

First Listen: Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, ‘Agrima’
By: Nate Chinen

Indo-Pak Coalition, an improvising trio led by the alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, finds its purpose in myriad forms of convergence. A decade ago the group released its auspicious debut album, Apti, announcing an inspired accord between Mahanthappa, a second-generation Indian-American; guitarist Rez Abbasi, who was born in Pakistan but raised in Los Angeles; and Dan Weiss, an Anglo-American drummer with a deep interest in Indian percussion.

The name of the trio was an inside joke ‘” a nod to immigrant-owned family businesses with names like Indo-Pak Movers and Indo-Pak Super Market ‘” but it carried a genuine note of solidarity. Britain’s Partition of the Indian subcontinent took place 70 years ago this summer, and along with creating two sovereign nations, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, the event left bitter legacies of displacement and bloodshed. That history isn’t the point of the Indo-Pak Coalition, but it can’t help but hover somewhere in the background.

Agrima is the trio’s second album, a step forward in every respect. The clearest update is a broadening of timbre. Where Apti featured a fixed range of instrumental sounds ‘” alto saxophone, tablas, cleanly processed electric guitar ‘” this album gives each musician more of an open canvas. Mahanthappa, whose sound on alto can be mournful or biting, delves into electronics with an expressive subtlety. (Hear what he does on the title track.) Abbasi employs distortion, back-masking and other effects, unfurling his jazz-rock freak flag.

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