In addition to being one of the leading artists in jazz today, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa is a renowned teacher, recently named Princeton University’s director of jazz and associate director of its program in musical performance.
Thus it was natural that the Hop had him share a sample of his teaching as part of a three-day residency culminating in a concert Friday, January 27. On Wednesday, January 25, Mahanthappa gave a jazz saxophone master class in the Hop’s Faulkner Recital Hall. Like all the many master classes the Hop has visiting artists give, the artist worked with Dartmouth student musicians (including members of the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble) and the event was free and open to the public to observe.
After playing solo for a few minutes, Mahanthappa brought the students to the front of the intimate hall for a mini-lesson on learning a great jazz artist’s solo—an essential part of jazz education—by ear rather than from a transcription.
At the same time, each new jazz artist synthesizes those classic motifs from the past with the music of now—from any tradition he or she feels moved by, be it labeled jazz, classical, folk, hip hop, R&B, world music or other. Mahanthappa exemplifies this the program he’s playing at the Hop; called Bird Calls, it’s an exploration of the music of great saxophonist Charlie Parker through Mahanthappa’s very contemporary eyes and ears.
Mahanthappa told The Dartmouth: “Jazz is very much a living art form. I think there’s a sense that jazz is your grandfather’s music, and I think it would be great if [Dartmouth students] could come to the show and see how jazz is just as relevant to them as it is to anybody else.”