Released Nov 2002 – Catalog #rgr12

About the Album

“This kind of elevation and refinement is not simply a cut above the norm; it arguably redefines the norm.”
— David Adler, All About Jazz

“Definitely one of the strongest voices on the jazz scene.”
— Paula Edelstein, All Music

Described as “a talent to keep a steady eye on” by New Yorker magazine, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has been capturing the attention of press and artists alike since his arrival in New York City five years ago. While steadily forging a path with his own groups, and landing auspicious sideman work with the likes of David Murray, Steve Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, and Greg Osby, Rudresh has been honing his composing skills and developing his own vocabulary through the fusing of various influences, finding a bridge between the lyricism of John Coltrane’s music and the rhythmic counterpoint of the M-BASE culture. Following a commission award from the American Composers Forum in 2002, Rudresh decided to draw more specifically on his Indian ancestry to compose the suite that makes up the music on this recording, Black Water, his second release as a leader.

On Black Water, Mahanthappa’s forward-thinking vision is flawlessly captured by a stellar quartet that features some of New York’s finest young talents. Foremost among the saxophonist’s collaborators is the remarkable pianist Vijay Iyer, with whom Mr. Mahanthappa shares a unique artistic bond. Ben Ratliff described this relationship in the New York Times as: “a strong communicative link … that creates a charged, nearly tensile energy that the rest of the group can orient itself around.” This was evident on Iyer’s 2001 release, Panoptic Modes (Red Giant) and is more finely developed here on the Black Water sessions. The quartet is completed with Europe’s top-call bassist, Fran├žois Moutin known for his work with Martial Solal and Michel Portal, and fiery young drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee who has traveled the world with rhythmically demanding artists like Omar Sosa and Henry Threadgill.

Some information about the term Black Water:

Black Water or kala pani (kala=black, pani=water) refers to the loss of one’s identity upon leaving one’s homeland and crossing the black water of the ocean. With regard to India, emigrating has often meant losing one’s caste privileges and having to reinvent oneself. During British colonization, Black Water specifically referred to the infamous prison in the Andaman Islands (about 800 miles off the eastern coast of India, closer to Thailand!) where Indian rebels were held including such important figures as Nehru. Historical accounts describe this prison as being one of the worst in India’s history. More recently, sociologists use the term in reference to the Indo-Caribbean experience not unlike the Middle Passage; this has been further expanded to include the Indian Diaspora in the West.

Black Water is dedicated to all of those who have had the courage to create their own culture and identity upon arriving in this strange new land.