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Alto saxophone master Rudresh Mahanthappa delivered two blazing sets of hard to categorize music on March 3, fronting a magnificent group including electric guitarist David Fiucynski, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss in an Athenaeum Jazz at the Studio production.

Opening with "Waiting Is Forbidden," Mahanthappa issued insistent repetitions while Fiucynski chomped hard on a 9th chord, sounding for a moment, at least like the James Brown band at a Mumbai disco. Kaleidoscopic shifts in mood followed, each highlighted by the endless fountain of ideas pouring out of the saxophonist. Fiucynski emerged, with lightening strikes on a double-neck instrument (fretted & fretless), conjuring a strange meeting of Indian mandolinist U. Shrinivas and British free jazz pioneer Derek Bailey.

The nagging melody of "Abhogi," yielded first to Fiucynski who strung slabs of "skronk" before engaging in a serpentine duet with Mahanthappa of spiraling intensity. Moutin and Weiss then began trading choruses of thumb-position velocity and asymmetric tom-tom explosions to ratchet the intensity even higher. They seemed to be acting on an ethos of echo/ answer/ oppose/ challenge. Or something like that.

Moutin's bass rumblings set the stage for "Lots Of Interest," while Mahanthappa laid out elliptical lines that traversed into Ornette Coleman-esque epiphanies-- all marked by circular-breathing and intense microtonal insertions. Fiucynski responded with distorted commentary, linking the esoteric with the blues, and Moutin's solo absolutely sang with sculpted tones and visceral rhythmic assaults. Over a two-note vamp- Weiss opened up a furious dialog that built up to an ecstatic display of kinetic energy.

Exciting stuff that continues to resonate in my skull.

Photo by Michael Klayman

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