On Black Water, Mahanthappa's forward-thinking vision is flawlessly captured by a stellar quartet that features some of New York's finest young talents. Foremost among the saxophonist's collaborators is the remarkable pianist Vijay Iyer, with whom Mr. Mahanthappa shares a unique artistic bond. Ben Ratliff described this relationship in the New York Times as: "a strong communicative link . . . that creates a charged, nearly tensile energy that the rest of the group can orient itself around." This was evident on Iyer's 2001 release, Panoptic Modes (Red Giant) and is more finely developed here on the Black Water sessions. The quartet is completed with Europe's top-call bassist, François Moutin known for his work with Martial Solal and Michel Portal, and fiery young drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee who has traveled the world with rhythmically demanding artists like Omar Sosa and Henry Threadgill. Some information about the term Black Water:Black Water or kala pani (kala=black, pani=water) refers to the lossof one's identity upon leaving one's homeland and crossing the black water of the ocean. With regard to India, emigrating has often meant losing one's caste privileges and having to reinvent oneself. During British colonization, Black Water specificallyreferred to the infamous prison in the Andaman Islands (about 800 miles off the eastern coast of India, closer to Thailand!) where Indian rebels were held including such important figures as Nehru. Historical accounts describe this prison as being one of the worst in India's history. More recently, sociologists use the term in reference to the Indo-Caribbean experience not unlike the Middle Passage; this has been further expanded to include the Indian Diaspora in the West. Black Water is dedicated to all of those who have had the courage to create their own culture and identity upon arriving in this strange new land.
"To observe that Mahanthappa fused the incantatory phrase-making and exotic scales of Indian music with the free-wheeling improvisational spirit of American jazz would be an understatement. He's so thoroughly immersed in both worlds that he conjured up a startlingly original merger of the two."
– Chicago Tribune
"The band references a classic hard-bop sound, but what they play is many times more compact and intense. Mahanthappa's biting attack pairs a Coltrane influence with an incisive, exacting articulation, which absolutely soars…"