Sunday, February 13, 2011

AN EVENING WITH VIJAY, RUDRESH, & BUNKY

Bunky and Rudresh I was thrilled you guys decided to test-drive your jazz quintet, Apex, in Ann Arbor Saturday evening as part of a double bill with the Vijay Iyer trio. Man, want an inspired night of music. Many jazz aficionados were excited about it. You and Rudresh have similar styles, and I now understand  Bunky’s influence on Rudresh, Greg Osby and Steve Wilson. Their styles are rooted in hard bop with a touch of free jazz. Of the three alto sax players, Rudresh sound has more of a tangible free jazz dynamic.

Rudresh is the first alto saxophonist I’ve heard in a long time who chews up chord changes as greedily as the great Charlie Parker. Saturday evening, he made switching tempos on the spot and playing counter-melodies seems effortless. Moreover, his way of composing is akin to Iyer his musical soul mate of 15 years. The pianist had an awesome opening set.
alto saxophonist Bunky Green and Rudresh Mahanthappa

Did you and Bunky catch Iyer’s take on Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”? How about the young drummer Marcus Gilmore and his sophisticated phrasing. Also, bassist Stephen Crump gave a solid performance. Crump has a sensual way of handling the bass almost as if he’s seducing it. Rudresh and Iyer have to be the most imaginative jazz composers in the game. Their composing is multi-layered and intricate a la Charles Mingus. Rudresh and Iyer love to load their compositions with an abundance of counter-melodies and tempo alterations.
On Rudresh’s originals, for instance, “Welcome,” The Summit,” and “Playing with Stones” the band made it seem as if they were playing mini-compositions within the main composition. Iyer is guilty of the same on his originals “Cardio,” and “Abundance”. Iyer’s phrasing is gentle, and his fingers seemed to be made from cotton. On medium and quick tempo numbers, he has a rambunctious streak. Bunky, I guessed you and Rudresh were going to open for Iyer, but the pianist played the first set. Iyer explained the trio had to split after the set and the autograph signing. They’re scheduled to perform at the Grammys' pre-show Sunday. Apex had a wonderful piano player as well.

Detroiter Craig Taborn is a quite the jazz rebel. I became a lifelong fan when Taborn was a member of saxophonist James Carter’s band. Apex’s drummer Damion Reid, who Rudresh jokingly referred to as his rhythmic instigator, sounded as if he made his bones in a funk band. He was plenty loud and powerful. At times, he overpowered Taborn because of Reid’s banging and clanging. At 74, Bunky, your sound still has that hard bop grit, and on your signature tune “Little Girl I’ll Miss You”, which the late Abbey Lincoln wrote lyrics for, sounds new every time you perform it.
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