Italy-born US-based sax player Rudresh Mahanthappa third album in row on German ACT label is in many senses a return to his roots. First of all, all album is dedicated to Charlie Parker (who Rudresh counts as his main influence from early age). Second, after two ACT released strongly Asian music influenced albums, "Bird Calls" is much closer to Rudresh early freer and more jazzy works. Even bassist Francois Moutin, who started collaboration with Mahanthappa as far as on his second album in 2002, is presented here.
Three other members of new quintet are pianist Matt Mitchell, drummer Rudy Royston and third generation jazz musician trumpeter Adam O'Farrill(both his grandfather and father are well-known Afro-Cuban jazz artists).
Nothing on this album comes directly from Parker's legacy - all compositions are Mahanthappa originals. Even by its sound they recall more Ornette Coleman that Charlie Parker. There is no mistake in album's dedication though - Rudresh uses Parker's tunes and ideas deconstructing them and adding as micro-scoping elements (together with his Indian heritage elements) in absolutely new music.
The result is new, fresh and modern sounding. Rudresh saxophone playing techniques are fast and pedantically precise,as his sound is. Those familiar with his earlier (mostly US-recorded) music will find here his characteristic attention to details and internal structure against catchy tunes (two previous ACT albums were more tuneful and soulful in contrast); still one can't call this music tuneless. Just combined of myriads of small elements musical mosaic is similar to kaleidoscope where each moment's view is much more impressive than final impression after all pictures series.
As always with Mahanthappa's music, it is full of muscular energy and even is his sax is on the front there are lot of space for all band's members.Still, he's obvious leader here. Probably main attraction of this release comes from unique fragile balance between jazz tradition,Indian music elements and modern arrangement when all three components are presented in equal proportions.As a result listener can really enjoy synthesis of rich components without domination or confrontation between them.
It's more a question of taste but I really enjoyed this new Rudresh album more than the music from his two previous ACT releases where jazz component too often has been almost lost under the domination of different folklore material. One great new 2015 ACT season opener.