One of the healthiest trends, it seems, in "our music is a certain restlessness, a dissatisfaction perhaps, with accepting the tradition as is. Rez Abbasi, originally from Pakistan and raised in southern California, now a fifteen-year veteran of the Manhattan scene, is a living embodiment of East-meets-West-meets-East. The music on Bazaar, the guitarist's fifth CD release as leader, reflects Abbasi's itinerate cultural awarenesses and offers yet another indication of where the restless spirit of the music may be headed.
Featuring the leader on electric, acoustic and sitar-guitar (remember Denny Dias' burning jazz-inflected solo on Steely Dan's "Do It Again ?), Gary Versace on Hammond B3 organ, Dan Weiss on drum kit and tablas and Kiran Ahluwahlia (Abbasi's wife) on vocals, with able assistance from saxists Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto) and Marc Mommaas (tenor and soprano), and peppered with Gautam Siram's mridnagam (an Indian hand drum) and Naren Budkakar's unusual and evocative whistling, Bazaar is a market and meeting-place of world music sensibilities. For example, Ahluwahlia's vocal improvisations, steeped in the timbres and textures of ghazal and Punjabi folk genres, reference the Indian subcontinent of their origin.
Weiss, who has immersed himself in the intricacies of Indian rhythms under the tutelage of Samir Chatterjee, uses his mastery of additive and cyclic rhythms to expand and expound on the fairly straightforward metrical organization of the compositions. Organist Gary Versace also speaks in varied rhythmic accents, as on "Mid-life, where his unusual punctuations create suspenseful syntax. Abbasi's phrasing is chain-motific in the manner of, say, Ornette Coleman; he makes unusual connections and resolutions at the termini of his lines, occasionally launching into scorching hyperdrive.
On November 28, the trio showcased material from the album at Jazz Standard, with Ahluwahia, Mahanthappa and Mommaas sitting in for a couple of numbers each, to the critical acclaim of an appreciative and open-eared audience. Abbasi and his genre-busting globe-trotters are doing us all a favor: they're asking, "where is the music?" And in their attempt to improvise answers in a fusion and fission of cultural influences, they challenge us to reconsider our own understandings of "East and "West.
Track Listing: Bazaar; Leather; Thin Elephant; Life Goes; You People: Intro; You People; Mid-life;
Hindu-Myth; Destiny Owes You.
Personnel: Rez Abbasi: guitar, sitar-guitar, percussion; Gary Versace: Hammond organ; Danny Weiss: drums, tabla, rhythm scat; Kiran Ahluwalia: Indian vocals; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto sax; Marc Mommaas: tenor & soprano sax; Gautam Siram: mridnagam; Naren Budhakar.