© 2022 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bird Of A Feather: Rudresh Mahanthappa On Learning From Charlie Parker

Rudresh Mahanthappa's latest album is <em>Bird Calls</em>.
Jimmy Katz
Courtesy of the artist
Rudresh Mahanthappa's latest album is Bird Calls.

In the early 1980s, when a young sixth-grader in Colorado first heard Charlie Parker, his life was transformed. Now a world-class saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa is paying homage to Parker with his new album, Bird Calls. Mahanthappa says it's a tribute to Charlie Parker — but there are no Charlie Parker songs here.

"Each composition is based on a particular Charlie Parker song or solo," he explains. "Really, I feel like the best way we can pay tribute is to show what we've learned from him — not so much play his music."

The idea for the record took root years ago, when Mahanthappa was working with a student on a Parker tune called "Donna Lee" — a notoriously fast and complicated piece that sax players often strive to master, the way a budding rock guitarist might study "Eruption." To make the song more approachable, they broke it into smaller chunks.

"But in hearing these snippets out of context, these snippets started sounding more like Bartok or contemporary classical music, or even elements of something more funk-like — just modern," Mahanthappa says. "And it started striking me that maybe there was more to Charlie Parker than I had previously thought."

Mahanthappa spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about what he's learned from Parker, and why the late master's music always feels personal to him — even on paper. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content