Downbeat review by Bill Shoemaker


Mauger – The Beautiful Enabler (CF 114)
Rudresh Mahanthappa has a plangent, hardedged alto saxophone sound, one that is made more searing by hard-hitting, knotty themes that have been his stock in trade on his own recordings and those with his most empathetic collaborator, Vijay Iyer. If there is any criticism that could be levelled at the saxophonist’s recordings to date, it is their emphasis on complexity, albeit in the service of an incisive cultural critique. These two recordings (Mahanthappa’s “Kinsmen” review doesn’t appear below) flesh out crucial aspects of Mahanthappa’s sensibility, leaving one with a fuller picture of a musician on a threshold of major artist status.

Bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway write demanding pieces, but they also pen tunes conducive to expansive, convivial blowing like the four they include on “The Beautiful Enabler”. With more than thirty years experience playing together in a multitude of settings, they are one of the most telepathic bass-drums tandems active today. But, far from being the odd man out, Mahanthappa plays like he spent years in the shed with them. His “I’ll See You When I Get There” benefits greatly from Dresser’s furious arco and Hemingway’s shadowing phrases  and abrupt groundswells, while the plaint of “Intone” is constantly pulled by their undercurrents. Throughout the album, Mahanthappa sounds like he has at least a decade more experience than he actually does, a great measure of the energy and mutual support created on Mauger’s sterling debut.

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