No, no, no. Jazz isn’t dying. It isn’t even sick. It’s just too intimidating for easy popularity. The trouble with the jazz present, as well as jazz in the future is the formidability of the jazz past. What, for instance, is an ambitious young tenor saxophonist supposed to do after encountering a Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane record – after, that is, being tempted briefly to throw up his hands and murmur “I’m not worthy?”
Anyone who wants to know how brilliantly alive and bursting with ideas jazz is should rush to Bruce Eaton’s invaluable Art of Jazz concert series at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Auditorium. That’s where you’ll hear the magnificent Indo-jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who was previously in the Art of Jazz series with the universally praised jazz group of Vijay Iyer.
This time, Mahanthappa is bringing his extraordinary quartet Gamak, which is named after the South Indian term for melodic ornament. Mahanthappa says their jazz is grounded in “Chinese or Indian or Arabic music and a lot of 20th century and 21st century classical music” as well as “the rock/punk esthetic” of the band from which the group’s guitarist hails, the Screaming Headless Torsos.
A pre-concert demonstration performance at 2 p.m. on “Unraveling the Mystery: The Sounds of the Sitar” is by Naryan Padmanabha. Tickets are $25 members, $29 nonmembers.
– Jeff Simon