Lyn Horton: Dakshina Ensemble
Begins the UMass Magic Triangle Series for 07-08

November 18th 2007 02:07 pm

Copyright © 2007 Lyn Horton

UMass Amherst, MA

Nov. 18, 2007

Crossover music may carry a listener to a destination where one kind of music is embellished by the accoutrements of another. But, how often does it happen that two musics are performed within ethics that define their breadth and similarity? And the exchange goes in both directions?

These questions were answered in a relentlessly musical two hour performance at UMass Amherst of The Dakshina Ensemble, a collaborative effort between Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophonist, and Kadri Kopalnath, Indian classical music figure, also an alto player. This was the first concert for the annual Magic Triangle Series, now in its eighteenth year.

The pair of musicians assembled both quartet and trio groupings which hosted a blending of the improvisatory practices of both Western and Asian traditions. An exhilarating mastery of the call and response mechanism so often associated with American jazz media, personified by quartet members drummer Royal Hartigan and bassist Carlos De Rosa, went into full gear with the cadre of Asian virtuosos which, along with Kopalnath, included female violinist A. Kanyakumari and Poolvalur Sriji on mridangam.

The compositions exhibited dense structure with thematic underpinnings, initiated from a Western perspective and integrated with the cyclical characteristics of the raga thoroughly examined within the Asian sensibility. The altos became the main characters. They each provided fulcrums on which the music balanced in synchronicity. The development was a matter of meeting at the fulcrum before tipping into one arena or another.

Each musician, not to forget the electric sitarist, Rez Abassi, gave extraordinary solos neatly placed within the flow of the compositions.

There was a stark evenness from the beginning to the end with negligible breaks. The stunning evenness led to the level of entrancement that was achieved. The depth of that captivation portended a quality of experience linked to the freeing of the spirit.

No end to the musical exuberance of the players, in contrast to their actual physical restraint, opened the doors to amazing sets of horn repetitions, string ostinatos, and rhythmic flurries on percussion that can only affect the senses that are aligned with satisfaction.

The partnership of Mahanthappa and Kopalnath bred a wealth of listening material whose limitations were comprised of time and whose parameters transcended the universal.

(The Magic Triangle Series continues February 28th, 2008 with Adam Rudolph’s octet, Moving Pictures.)

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