Bunky Green / Rudresh Mahanthappa

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Apex Review

by Phil Freeman

This collaborative album between two alto saxophonists of different generations but similar character is a fascinating if somewhat overlong (77-plus minutes!) encounter that demonstrates the power of what's known as the "inside-outside" approach to jazz. Mahanthappa, the younger of the two men, is known for his fusions of post-bop saxophone with classical Indian music -- indeed, on his 2004 release Mother Tongue, he took it one step further, and performed compositions based on the tonalities of people speaking various Indian languages. If this sounds like a hyper-cerebral exercise, something almost Braxtonian in its capacity to alienate casual listeners, well then Apex is the ideal counter. A hard-swinging disc that pairs Mahanthappa with Bunky Green, a 1960s player whose best-received work emerged in the late '70s, Apex finds the two hornmen backed by a powerhouse all-star band including newly minted MacArthur fellow Jason Moran on piano, bassist Fran├žois Moutin, and drummers Damion Reid and Jack DeJohnette switching off. Everyone gets spotlight time, Mahanthappa and Green play distinctively enough that each is identifiable despite the fact that they're both on alto, and the music maintains an adventurous but grooving hard bop feel. A concise 40- to 45-minute running time might have been more enticing to non-diehards, but while the 15-minute album closer may seem particularly intimidating, it's actually two pieces, the nine-minute "The Journey" and then a five-minute sax-drums duet to bring things to a gentle close.

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