Following a commission award from the American Composers Forum in 2002, alto saxophonist and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa draws more specifically on his Indian ancestry to compose the suite that makes up the music on Black Water. This recording, his second as a leader, finds Mahanthappa -- who has been a sideman with the likes of such jazz notables as David Murray, Greg Osby, Jack DeJohnette, Vijay Iyer, Joe Lovano, and Steve Coleman -- dedicating the CD to all who have had the courage to leave behind their own culture and identity upon arriving in a strange new land. Opening with the compelling and fiercely individualistic "Balancing Act," the saxophonist immediately takes flight with an unflagging drive of bebop rhythms and speed that culminate into melodic fluency. Accompanied by pianist Vijay Iyer, Francois Moutin on bass, and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums, the quartet's improvisational techniques are blistering and well-crafted. Iyer, a piano phenom in his own right, plays exceptional solos that round out the musical sentences Mahanthappa is voicing. Moutin, known for his work with Martial Solal and Michel Portal, provides first-rate bass accompaniment -- both rhythmically and melodically. Kavee, who tours frequently with dynamic pianist Omar Sosa and Henry Threadgill, keeps the demanding rhythms interesting with his stellar use of cymbals, colors, and textures. At times, Charlie Parker's influence peeks through on such tunes as "I Like It When You Play the Blues," but overall, Black Water is in Rudresh Mahanthappa's own intense alto saxophonist voice -- which is definitely one of the strongest voices on the jazz scene.
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AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein