One of the out-of-left-field suprises in jazz last year was the album Kinsmen, by Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. As a self-deprecating ethnic joke, his brother had given him a CD called "Saxophone Indian Style" -- but when Mahanthappa listened to it, he was amazed to hear South Indian Carnatic music played so well on the Western instrument of the saxophone. Mahanthappa eventually sought out the saxophonist from "Saxophone Indian Style," who turned out to be Kadri Gopalnath, an acknowledged legend of Carnatic music -- and proposed that the two make an album together.
And the results have turned Mahanthappa into a critical darling. He's been lauded by Gary Giddins, perhaps the most insightful jazz critic writing today, and Kinsmen's been named one of the best jazz CDs of 2008 by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and the Village Voice.
So my question for ABers, particularly any that have familiarity with Carnatic music, is what do you think? Is this CD getting overhyped due to the novelty of the concept, or is it truly, as Giddins puts it, "astonishing," "fascinating," and a "momentous achievement that will be around for a long time to come?"
You can get a taste of the sound of the Kinsmen band for free with the videos on Mahanthappa's MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/dakshinaband