Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa recorded this fine debut in 1994, while still a graduate student in Chicago. (He has since moved to New York.) The influence of Steve Coleman and the M-Base movement is clear, though not always explicit. Mahanthappa is also coming from bebop and has dealt extensively with the harmonic ambiguity of Ornette Coleman's music, as is most evident on "Who's Got Rhythm?" and "Good Hair," the latter an edgy blues. These influences coalesce with musicality and wit on the final track, "Which Coleman?" Mahanthappa's Indian heritage informs his work as well, not only in terms of composition and improvisation but also in terms of tone: His alto horn often evokes the yearning, legato quality of an Indian wind instrument (particularly on "Hope"). Two tracks feature Mahanthappa in a trio setting, with bassist Larry Kohut and drummer Jerry Steinhilber. Pianist Jim Trompeter joins on "Yatra" and "Jerry's Basement." The three remaining tracks feature Ryan Shultz on bass trumpet, a truly unusual instrument that adds greatly to the session's interest.
by David R. Adler