Rudresh Mahanthappa

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013

Montclair, NJ

Rudresh Mahanthappa creates jazz that is informed by his virtuosity as a saxophonist. His sound hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-thinking way while also reflecting on his own experience as a second-generation Indian-American. His latest project, Bird Calls (ACT, 2015), was named Album of the Year by both Downbeat and NPR Music’s Jazz Critics Poll. In recognition of saxophonist Charlie Parker, each track on Bird Calls was inspired by a Parker composition. In 2015, he was named a United States Artists Fellow, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and numerous commissions. His work has also been supported by the MAP Fund and Chamber Music America. He has been named Alto Saxophonist of the Year for four of the past five years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Polls, and received the same honor for five years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association. His Indo-Pak Coalition is remounting with a new album forthcoming in early 2017.

  • Photo Credit: Jimmy Katz
  • Live at Festival de Jazz Providencia in Santiago, Chile (2016)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa- “Waiting Is Forbidden,” Gamak (2013):
    “Waiting Is Forbidden,” Gamak (2013)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa- Rudresh Mahanthappa performing “Killer,” 2012:
    Rudresh Mahanthappa performing “Killer,” 2012
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa- Rudresh Mahanthappa with Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble performing “Convergence,” 2010:
    Rudresh Mahanthappa with Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble performing “Convergence,” 2010
  • Photo Credit: Jimmy Katz
    Rudresh Mahanthappa
  • Photo Credit: Jack Vartoogian
    Rudresh Mahanthappa
  • Photo Credit: Jean-Jacques Menzi

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work, what project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

I would direct them to Kinsmen, as this project exemplifies my goals in myriad ways. This body of work clearly delineates the contrasting elements between Indian classical forms and jazz while simultaneously demonstrating how they can intersect to yield new ideas and frameworks for both composition and improvisation that defy genre. This seamless synthesis of concepts is a direct expression of my Indian-American identity. Much like me, this music is simultaneously Indian, American, neither, and both. In addressing this hybridity, I feel that the creation of Kinsmen speaks to America’s multicultural landscape while pointing to 21st Century notions of global citizenship. On a more personal note, this project propelled my public perception as an artist from being “that Indian saxophonist” to a station among forward-thinking American modern jazz musicians. In that vein, a listener that does not know my work can listen to Kinsmen and then go backwards or forwards freely through my discography bearing a unique insight into my inspirations and aspirations.