I'd received a sample cd from Whirlwind with an Arthur Hnatek album. This album is the first I fell in love with on their site. Rudyy Royston ALWAYS pulls me in!
Favorite track: I Can't Get Started.
Standard playing at it's best! Those three musicians manage to take jazz standards into 21st century, I really like the arrangements. I'm also impressed, how Francois Moutin manages to give his bass a very strong voice in this powerful setup. It's really fun to listen to this music!
Favorite track: Barbados - 26/2.
Recorded at Sound on Sound Studios, Montclair, NJ by David Amlen (January 24 & 25, 2020)
Mixed and mastered by Liberty Ellman (Diametric Music)
Produced by Rudresh Mahanthappa
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Album Artwork and Graphic Design - Dave Bush
Photography - David Crow
released June 19, 2020
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Over the course of an illustrious twenty-five-year career Rudresh Mahanthappa’s music making has constantly pushed at the artistic boundaries to encompass such diverse inﬂuences as classic
bebop, the ﬂash and fury of electric fusion, and the complexities of Carnatic music, while always maintaining a clear sense of his own ﬁercely intelligent, uncompromising musical personality.
On 'Hero Trio', his sixteenth release as a leader/co-leader, he has moved the focus away from his own compositions to pay tribute to his greatest inﬂuences with an album of interpretations. All of the material is presented in Mahanthappa’s characteristically original arrangements, and to approach them with the greatest degree of freedom and spontaneity he chose to record in trio format, enlisting the talents of long-time associates François Moutin on bass and Rudy Royston on drums.
Their effortless collective virtuosity, and the perfect attunement of their musical thinking honed over two decades of playing together, makes this album an outstanding addition to the genre. “Playing chordless trio, you’re very exposed but you also have a degree of freedom that’s very special. There’s also a great history of piano trios that have a beautiful way of functioning like a single organism, and I wanted to capture that energy. I wrote the arrangements, and when we came together to rehearse I didn’t have to reorganise a thing. I felt like within ten minutes we were ready to make an album.”
His role as Director of Jazz at Princeton stimulated Mahanthappa to conduct a deep exploration of the standard repertoire, and this in turn led him to focus in on the diverse individual tunes that have helped shape his own career. Charlie Parker’s ‘Red Cross’ was one of the ﬁrst Parker tunes Mahanthappa ever learnt, and appealed to him for its humour, an often overlooked component of Parker’s genius. The trio give it a thorough reworking. “It’s been interesting for me to take things apart - we play the melody divided into three different sections that are really three different moods, but it felt really natural at the same time.” ‘Overjoyed’ is an arrangement of the Stevie Wonder classic by Danilo Perez, with whom Mahanthappa has played in duo format - “Just an awesome tune in any way shape or form. Danilo’s arrangement goes through different meters and complex harmony but still ﬂows beautifully: Francois has the ability to suggest all kinds of harmony even without a piano being present and I took full advantage of that.”
Mahanthappa wanted to acknowledge that his path would not have been possible without both Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, and he boldly combines their compositions in ‘Barbados/26-2’, emphasising the unifying strength of the melodies and the ingenuity of his arranger’s touch. By contrast, in live performance the trio have developed a strategy where the three of them create a spontaneously improvised groove for Mahanthappa to take in any direction he chooses - 'I Can’t Get Started' replicates that approach to powerful effect, showcasing how his sophisticated rhythmic conception can accommodate his love for Sonny Rollins and Benny Carter without compromise. ‘The Windup’ is from Keith Jarret’s ‘Belonging’, one of Mahanthappa’s favourite ever albums – “A ridiculously awesome album. I also liked the challenge of recording Jarrett with a pianoless group - if you can do that, then you can do anything.”
June Carter Cash wrote ‘Ring of Fire’ for her husband Johnny, and the tune connects Mahanthappa with his Colorado childhood. "Like Dolly Parton, when you take a closer look at what they did compositionally you realise that it has a conversational ﬂow, with odd length phrases and extra bars here and there, and I wanted to capture that freedom." Reinvigorated jam session favourite ‘I’ll Remember April’ is inspired in part by the majestic version on Lee Konitz’s ‘Motion’ album, but Mahanthappa and the trio stamp their own idiosyncratic personalities onto this stunningly original performance. ‘Sadness’ explores the legacy of Ornette Coleman’s mid-sixties trio with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett - “The sonic landscape the three musicians created is pretty amazing - we wanted to explore those textures.” Mahanthappa wanted to include some lesser known Parker tunes and ‘Dewey Square’ was a last-minute spontaneous addition in the studio that provided a perfect bookend for the album.
Hero Trio is both a striking statement of Mahanthappa's own unique vision, and a tribute to his musical inspirations. “I have always wanted to record in the powerful yet intimate trio format. It would be an incomplete venture without somehow celebrating the quintessential saxophone trio work of Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, and Ornette Coleman. Outside of the jazz world, I first saw both Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street as a child and have always found their work to be beautiful, humorous, pensive, and utterly joyful. They have played such a strong role in helping me to look beyond the illusory boundaries of genre towards seeing music as a magical force that binds humanity. With this album, we seek to endorse and spread that message widely.”
"These tributes burst with so much interpretive ingenuity, sparkling friction and caffeinated improvisational interplay that they demand considerable replay."
★★★★ DownBeat Hot Box
"The sound is free and lively, the up-tempo tunes seeming like a soundtrack to video of major league hitters trying to hit the impossible and unpredictable wobble of an incoming knuckleball. Long, lanky hitters, lots of knee and elbows and flailing bats, seasoned pros engaged in a difficult task with a contortionist's grace, Mahanthappa's alto tracing the flight of the ball, bass and drums goosing the batters into their rubbery attempts."
★★★★ All About Jazz
"The result is an overwhelming feeling of joy amid all the 'chops' of this outstanding band, a desire to emote on a set of songs that blur the art-pop divide, while maintaining very high technical standards."
"Mahanthappa's trio convincingly puts a distinctive stamp on the eclectic source material, with sparkling cocktails of hooks, groove and solos that unfurl in structures that can be straight and not so straight."
★★★★ Jazzwise Magazine (Editor's Choice)
"His arrangements for chordless trio allow for plenty of enjoyable scrutiny... Mahanthappa's notions here retain all the muscle of the originals."
★★★★ DownBeat Magazine
"Freedom from the chords and a collective gusto gives the music a rollicking, loose-jointed feeling."
★★★★ All About Jazz
It's Raghavan's intention to create perfectly shaped pieces for the band, but he also allows complete freedom for interpretations."
★★★★★ Fono Forum
"One of the striking aspects of Mahanthappa’s mastery of the sax is the way that he is able, for a few bars, to inhabit the sound and phrasing of any of these players and then move effortlessly away from this into his own version of the tune and his own stylings."
"If this isn’t a top pick by Major Jazz Magazines as one of the best of this year, they need to get their heads examined."
The Art Music Lounge
"Mahanthappa’s sound on alto is as expressive as ever, and it’s easy to hear the joy these three find in such disparate sources... An early contender for Album of the Year."
"They come on like a storm and each turn exudes both articulation and coordination.The boss's flow becomes more sage with each year, chattering one sec, soaring the next."
★★★★ DownBeat Hot Box
'Truly some of the most original jazz out there at the moment."
"Funky rhythm and bubbling notes welcome "Barbados / 26-2", then, after a chorus on Moutin's thread, Mahanthappa lets go, propelled by a raging Royston."
Jazz à bâbord
"One of the few artists that keeps an allegiance to the jazz tradition while also stretching into 21st Century territory."
"Not wasting a progressive note if he doesn't have to, he finds a way to mix June Carter, Ira Gershwin and Charlie Parker together seamlessly."
"The fierce saxophonist fascinates with his improvisatory jags, rapid cascading runs, and edgy pressure cooker sound."
"Many delightful surprises and audacious musicianship."
"A loving and often hard-driving tribute to his musical inspirations... Mahanthappa dances, dips, dives, roars, and purrs through a program that differs from anything he's done before."
"Mahanthappa has deep history with both Royston and Moutin, and on the album he often urges them out on the ledge. The intensity of their cohesion shines..."
"A richly evocative, almost dizzying reflection of the compositions."
"What’s most apparent in these very successful reappropriations is pure pleasure, the joy the trio takes in adding new colours to old standards."
Pan M 360
"Adventurous jazz is not always as much fun to listen to as it is on Hero Trio, a stellar meeting of compositions, arrangements, and astute performances propelled by real passion."
"Bound to be album of the year."
"A piano-less saxophone trio that leaves plenty of space for the unit to move together."
The Third Story
“This is ‘out jazz’ in the best sense of the tradition.”
"Inveterate experimentalist tackles the standards. Nice idea, though from the get-go, you know this ain't gonna be your grandpa's bebop when Mahanthappa drills down to a pedal tone on 'Red Cross. The trio's take on Keith Jarrett's 'The wind-Up' is a dazzler."
DownBeat Hot Box
"Mahanthappa's alto saxophone allows us a glimpse of the standard before reshaping them with improvised melodic lines and unpredictable spiral shapes, with Moutin and Royston in the background adding texture and versatility to the sonic impact... Album of the Week."
★★★★ All About Jazz (IT)
"Mahanthappa presents his musical influences with a powerful trio formation, doing away with stylistic categories in the pursuit of true free jazz."
"The core of the album – and the trio – is set around the energy of Charlie Parker, and it starts and ends with Mahanthappa enjoying himself in a blistering version of 'Red Cross', and a concise 'Dewey Square'."
London Jazz News
"Mahanthappa imbues the simultaneously spirited and intimate Hero Trio with his singular sound."
Chicago Jazz Magazine
"In a year of precious little joy, this is quite simply a jewel of a jazz record."
"At any rate I’m glad to hear Rudresh rushing through a set of songs by many of his heroes...This is brilliant."
Off The Tracks
"Mahanthappa is one of the most exciting alto players I've heard in recent years and he does his heroes proud."
Bebop Spoken Here
"From his own playing as well as his inspired adaptations of material by other musicians, Mahanthappa has fashioned a winner."
Jay Harvey Upstage
“The three virtuous let their superpowers play, as well as their variations.”
"Mahanthappa's diverse influences combine on this collection of interpretations."
"As stated in the lyrics of Cash’s 'Ring of Fire', this album burns, burns, burns.”
"The music is easy to grasp, while always maintaining a clear feeling for Mahanthappa's own extremely intelligent, uncompromising musical personality."
Rhein Main Magazine
"[Mahanthappa] grasps the templates freely, but the tunes are always easily recognizable; freedom lies in the open interplay of the trio."
★★★★ Fono Forum
"A tribute to those musicians who have influenced him most."
"For these heroes, the three virtuosos not only let their obvious superpowers loose, but also their imaginations."
"[Mahanthappa] is one of the most important saxophonists of the day."
★★★★★ Jazzthetik Magazine
"Parker's bebop tunes sound particularly interesting, abstracted and deconstructed without their typical chord structure."
★★★★ Concerto Magazine
This is a wonderful album! Dave Douglas is one of my heroes. He's more than a great musician. He has a vision for the music and a feeling for putting together a group which is unique. So, beside Joey Baron (another heavyweight and one of my absolute favourite drummers) he invited some young cats to this session. They play just great and make sure that this music sounds totally fresh, whilst at the same time being deeply rooted in the jazz tradition. Florian Arbenz