Rudresh Mahanthappa (ರುದ್ರೇಶ್ ಮಹಾಂತಪ್ಪ )(born May 4, 1971) is a New York-based jazz alto saxophonist and composer.
Mahanthappa (Kannada ರುದ್ರೇಶ್ ಮಹಾಂತಪ್ಪ )was born in Trieste, Italy, the son of Indian emigrants to the United States. He was born in Italy as a result of his father's job in academia, but spent nearly his entire early life in Boulder, Colorado, graduating from Fairview High School in 1988.
In 1992, Mahanthappa graduated from Berklee College of Music. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree in jazz composition from Chicago's DePaul University in 1998.
After moving to New York City in 1998, he quickly teamed up and released an album with pianist Vijay Iyer, Architextures, the first of many collaborations between the two.
As of 2012, he has twelve albums out as a leader or co-leader on labels including Pi Recordings, Savoy Jazz, ACT Music + Vision, and others. Mahanthappa's playing and composing are firmly ensconced in the highest of the New York jazz scene today.
During his time at Berklee, he was introduced to the music of Indian saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath, whose use of a Western instrument in the context of Carnatic music surprised and inspired Mahanthappa. He would later travel to India on a grant to work with Gopalnath; the two played together in concert between 2005 and 2008, and collaborated on the album Kinsmen (2008), which fuses Western and Indian approaches to improvisation.
In 2010, Mahanthappa recorded and released Apex with fellow saxophonist Bunky Green. As Mahanthappa tells it, "I first heard about Bunky from the late great saxophone teacher Joe Viola when I was a student at Berklee in the early 90s. Joe heard me warming up once and recommended that I check Bunky out as he thought that my approach was on track to being something similar to his. He loaned me Bunky's record Places We've Never Been (Vanguard) which totally knocked me out!" Mahanthappa sought Green out and sent him a tape of his playing to which Green responded by providing some encouraging feedback, leading to a long friendship.
Mahanthappa traveled again to India for his Guggenheim Fellowship so that he could study and gain a better understanding of the formal elements of Carnatic music. In a 2011 interview with Westword about the resulting album, Samdhi, Mahanthappa said, "my idea was to take whatever I learned -- take that knowledge -- and really put in a setting that has nothing to do with Indian classical music. Mahanthappa further claims The Brecker Brothers, The Yellowjackets, David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Jr., and Miles Davis' electric bands as influences in creating Samdhi.
He leads or co-leads seven projects, including: Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet (with Vijay Iyer or Craig Taborn on piano, François Moutin on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums), Raw Materials (with Vijay Iyer), Indo-Pak Coalition (with Rez Abbasi on sitar-guitar and Dan Weiss on tabla), MSG (with Ronan Guilfoyle on bass and Chander Sardjoe on drums), Dakshina Ensemble septet, and various groups playing under the label "Dual Identity."
Mahanthappa has frequently been listed in Down Beat's Critics Poll since 2003, and was named both "#1 Rising Star Jazz Artist" and "#1 Rising Star Alto Saxophonist" in the 2010 poll. In 2011, he was voted the #1 Alto Saxophonist of the Year by the 59th Annual Down Beat Critics Poll.
He has been awarded numerous grants for his compositions, including being given the NY Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Music (2006), three Rockefeller MAP grants, and two New York State Council on the Arts grants.
In 2007, he was named a Guggenheim fellow to pursue his interest in how Indian Carnatic music can inform and serve as an inspiration for American jazz.
The Jazz Journalists Association named Mahanthappa the Alto Saxophonist of the Year in 2009, 2010, and 2011.