Friday, November 30, 2007


11/16/07, Walker Art Center: Svajanam is Sanskrit for kinsmen, in this case an intersection of jazz and Carnatic (Indian classical) music. It's a fascinating concept: put Indian-American jazz saxophonist and Guggenheim fellow Rudresh Mahanthappa (who last came to the Walker in October 2006 with the Vijay Iyer Quartet) on the same stage as Dr. Kadri Gopalnath, India's Emperor of Saxophone (Saxophone Chakravarthy), then add four more strong musicians: Indian woman violinist A. Kanyakumari; Pakistan-born jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi; acoustic bassist Carlo De Rosa; Poovalur Sriji, master of the mridingam, India's classical drum; and world music drummer and educator royal hartigan (the lowercase spelling is his).

Less than a week after drowsing through Frode Haltli, we return to the Walker for the final event in its New World Jazz series, which began in September with Dhafer Youssef. The first thing I noticed was the bling on Gopalnath's saxophone. I've never seen an alto sax done up like a Bollywood prop. Coins hung from the neck and jeweled drops dangled from the bell, which also seemed to be dusted with glitter. His neck strap was a strand of crystals. Add the fact that he played his instrument while sitting cross-legged on the floor (actually a dais spread with Persian carpets and pillows) and we knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.

The music was beautiful and unusual. I have no clue what they played. Toward the end, Mahanthappa told us the group had not yet recorded together but planned to soon. He suggested that in the meantime, if we wanted to hear them again, we could buy one of his CDs and one of Gopalnath's and play them at the same time.

See Kinsmen on youtube and hear Mahanthappa talk about the project.

Photos: Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kadri Gopalnath.

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