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Bebop Spoken There

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Album review: Rudresh Mahanthappa - Hero Trio

Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax); Francois Moutin (bass); Rudy Royston (drums). 

I'd heard glowing reports about this album and, I'm pleased to say the fluorescence is fully justified although I did initially view it with the gravest of doubts. Why? They wear masks! Not PPE type masks but the sort of face covering favoured by Batman and Robin or, in an earlier age, Dick Turpin. Well all I can say is that they certainly stand and deliver.

The title, Hero Trio, derives from the album's theme which is to pay tribute to Princeton director of Jazz Mahanthappa's heroes - those musicians who have influenced him. 



The heroes are diverse: Three Charlie Parker pieces (Red Cross, Barbados and Dewey Square), Stevie Wonder is represented with Overjoyed and Trane's 26-2 is merged with Barbados thus linking up two of the major figures in modern jazz. 

The standards I Can't Get Started and I'll Remember April were inspired, not by Bunny Berigan or George Shearing but, the former by Sonny Rollins and Benny Carter and the latter by Lee Konitz. Keith Jarrett was the original brains behind The Windup whilst Ornette Coleman composed Sadness and June Carter  ignited Ring of Fire for her husband Johnny Cash.

Mahanthappa is one of the most exciting alto players I've heard in recent years and he does his heroes proud. The lack of a chordal instrument offers a chance of freedom which the alto player grabs with both hands. Of course, without a sound bass and drums, freedom could quickly turn into chaos! Not so here. Moutin and Royston are top draw. Some of the bass solos are as good as any I've ever heard - and I do mean ever! Royston is no mere time-keeper although he does keep time but he is also as much an integral part of the trio as the other two often laying down a line that is as melodic as it is rhythmic.

Hero Trio was released yesterday (June 19) by Whirlwind Recordings (WR4760) and if isn't top of at least one of the Jazzwise charts in the mag's August edition (July's already on the street*) I'll eat my virtual hat!
Lance.

* July's Jazzwise, incidentally, contains a letter from one of the Jazz Coop's directors, Debra Milne).

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