“With this visionary new work, Rudresh Mahanthappa is boldly breaking some exciting new ground while going all the way back to his Indian roots.” —Jazz Times
The Walker Art Center’s New World Jazz Series continues with two alto sax masters—Kadri Gopalnath, a living legend of South Indian carnatic music, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, a fiercely inventive Indian American jazz musician—in a fusion of East and West, tradition and innovation, the evening traverses unexplored sonic terrain and takes place on Friday, November 16, at 8 pm in the Walker’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Most recently at the Walker performing with jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, Mahanthappa is joined by Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble, featuring A. Kanyakumari (violin), Rez Abbasi (guitars), Carlo de Rosa (bass), Poovalur Sriji (mridangam), and royal hartigan (drums). Copresented with the Indian Music Society of Minnesota (IMSOM).
Guggenheim fellow Rudresh Mahanthappa is one of the most innovative young musicians and composers in jazz today. Named a Rising Star of the alto saxophone by the Downbeat International Critics Poll for the past four years, #2 in 2006, Rudresh has incorporated the culture of his Indian ancestry and has fused myriad influences to create a truly groundbreaking artistic vision. As a performer, he has led/co-led seven groups to critical acclaim. His most recent release for Pi Recordings, Codebook, was named one of the Top Jazz Albums of 2006 by The Village Voice, Jazztimes, and The Denver Post, among others, and received rave reviews from Downbeat, Jazztimes, wired.com, and Science magazine. In Europe, Codebook received the “Choc” (highest) rating in France’s Jazzman, four stars in the U.K.’s Jazzwise, and received the “Bollino di Marzo” from Italy’s Musica Jazz. This album also reached #7 on U.S. jazz radio charts and #1 on Canadian jazz radio charts. His previous quartet recording, Mother Tongue, on Pi Recordings received four stars in Downbeat and was named one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2004 by the Chicago Tribune, Jazztimes, Coda, All about Jazz, and Jazzmatazz, and was additionally recognized as one of the top jazz albums of 2005 by several European publications, including the UK’s Jazz Review. As a saxophonist, Mahanthappa has achieved international recognition performing regularly at jazz festivals and clubs worldwide. He has worked as a sideman with such jazz luminaries as David Murray, Steve Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, Samir Chatterjee, Von Freeman, Tim Hagans, Fareed Haque, Vijay Iyer, Howard Levy, David Liebman, Greg Osby, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. As a composer, Mahanthappa has received commission grants from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America, and the New York State Council on the Arts to develop new work. He holds a Bachelors of Music Degree in jazz performance from Berklee College of Music and a Masters of Music degree in jazz composition from Chicago’s DePaul University. He teaches at The New School University and is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow.
Indian Kadri Gopalnath (b. 1950) is one of the pioneers of carnatic music on the saxophone. Born in Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka, he acquired a taste for music from his father Thaniappa, a nadhaswaram vidwan. Thrilled and inspired at hearing the vibrant tone of the saxophone, he set out to master it spending nearly 20 years conquering the complex western wind instrument. Eventually he was crowned as the “Saxophone Chakravarthy.”
Successfully adapting the conventional alto saxophone to play carnatic music, Gopalnath has been lauded by musician Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the doyen of carnatic music, as a true carnatic music genius.
Gopalnath studied under Gopalkrishna Iyer of Kalaniketana, Mangalore, and in Madras, with the mridangist T.V. Gopalkrishnan. The 1980 Bombay Jazz Festival was a turning point for Gopalnath, when jazz musician John Handy heard him play and asked him to join him onstage. A memorable performance that meshed Handy’s jazz style and Gopalnath’s carnatic sound led to Gopalnath’s participation in the Jazz Festival in Prague, Berlin Jazz Festival, International Cervantino Festival in Mexico, Music Hall Festival in Paris, the BBC Promenade concert in 1994 in London and other venues around the world.
Together with jazz flutist James Newton he recorded Southern Brothers. His production East-West, an audio-video presentation, fuses Western and Indian music and features compositions from Saint Tyagaraja and Beethoven, among others. Film director K. Balachandar used Gopalnath’s services in his Tamil film Duet. His work has been honored with the Asthana Vidwan of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, the Shringerei Sharada Peetam, and the Padma Shri.
Tickets to Kinsmen/Svajanam featuring Kadri Gopalnath and Rudresh Mahanthappa are $25 ($21 Walker and IMSOM members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.