While performing in many other ensemble settings and building successful solo careers, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa are young innovators -- who share both Indian ancestry and a New York jazz sensibility -- who have been touring the world as a duo for over ten years, performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival and Jazz Festival Ljubljana, among many others. For the first time, they distill their otherworldly, closely entwined musical language into a 13-track recording on Raw Materials -- the first 12 of which are from the suite "Sangha: Collaborative Fables," which was commissioned by the Jazz Gallery with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund. From the opening, haunting piano chords and rich sax lines on "The Shape of Things," it's clear that the two have a blend of melodic passion, free jazz experimentation, and hypnotic ambience clearly in mind. They can turn from a gentle mood to a more frenetic one on a dime, as on the wildly percussive "All the Names," which goes through some interesting bouts of emotional upheaval. Despite the oddities and chamber music flavors throughout, some of their most inviting moments come on pieces like "Forgotten System," when they seem to challenge each other with competing improvisational lines and dynamics. Other tunes like "Five Fingers Make a Fist" and the soulful "Common Ground" keep the artsiness in but have moments of true melodicism. They're a brilliantly talented, visionary but unusual pair whose debut will appeal mostly to jazz and classical fans with open minds.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran