“I hope things are still happening this Friday”. These were the first words from superstar alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa in an exclusive interview recently. Well, despite the roof caving in at the Oriental Theater last Friday, the show will go on at Quixote’s at 8PM on Friday, September 30.
Mahanthappa, who just received DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll Award as the top alto saxophonist for 2011, was hopeful that the show with his new band, Samdhi, would take place here for a very special reason: He’s a local boy. Despite his exotic name and exotic music, Rudresh is a graduate of Boulder’s Fairview High School. On his biographical information, he’s listed as being born in Trieste, Italy. But his parents were residents of Boulder. Mahanthappa explains, “My parents settled [in Boulder] in 1964. I just happened to be born when my dad was on a sabbatical. So, I was born in Italy, and we were back in Boulder six months later.”
As for the meaning of his band’s name (and the name of its album, which was released September 27th), Mahanthappa explains, “[Samdhi] has a few different meanings. It means ‘twilight’, but it also refers to the period between the destruction of the universe and the creation of the next, which is a cycle. The way that ages…work in Hinduism is that the world is created, it’s preserved, and it’s destroyed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just the cycle of life. So it can refer to that space between the destruction of one universe and the creation of the next.”
As for the saxman/composer/bandleader’s view of the word, he explains, “I see twilight as this mystical period. It’s not daylight, it’s not night; it’s a magical time of the day when anything can happen.”
And how did the band Samdhi come about? “This project was a result of my  Guggenheim Fellowship. It was a very specific plan of action where I was taking these two or three very focused trips to India, but simultaneously working on some electronic music.” And why the Indian trips? “I think children of immigrants, when they become adults, begin to confront and question their identity.”
The members of Samdhi are: David Gilmore, guitar (according to Rudresh, “He’s as comfortable playing with Wayne Shorter as he is with Joss Stone.”); Rich Brown, bass; and Damion Reid, drums. On the album, the group contained another member: “Anand” Anantha Krishnan, who plays mridangam and kanjira. But, as Rudresh explains, “It’s logistically difficult to bring the mridangam player, so it’s the quartet.”
When asked how he became interested in so many different kinds of music, he chuckles and says, “My saxophone teacher from fourth grade until I left for college, Mark Harris, was just a really inspirational figure. He was just into a lot of music; he didn’t put up any barriers.”
So for the show, it’s Friday September 30th at Quixote’s, at 2151 Lawrence Street. And, if you want the album, it’s Twist and Shout, Denver’s best independent record store. Any way you can, you’ve got to get to Rudresh Mahanthappa. He’ll open your ears and your mind.