Review by Willard Maus

Gamak is a South Indian word for melodic ornamentation. It’s also the name of the latest album from alto saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, one of the most innovative musicians on the jazz scene. Combining hard-edge jazz with traditional Indian and Middle Eastern themes, he shows that East and West can indeed meet, in a complex but fresh-sounding way.

In a typical tune like Abhogi, Mahanthappa and his fellow-musicians (David Fiucznski, guitar; Francois Moutin, bass; and Dan Weiss, drums), start off in warm, bluesy fashion, then segue into an ethereal, strangely-beautiful passage based on an Indian raga, only to suddenly shift gears again and play with red-hot intensity and power.

It goes on like that for the entire album, with stylized Eastern tunes suddenly erupting with volcanic Western force. The result is challenging contemporary music played with team-work and virtuosity.