Rez Abbasi: Bazaar (2006)
The nine tunes on Bazaar, Rez Abbasi's fine debut recording for Zoho, have a structural depth which rewards repeated listening, and harmonic and rhythmic qualities which are instantly pleasing to the ear. Abbasi's totally convincing fusion of jazz with southern Asian rhythms and textures is supported by wonderful musicianship throughout.
The opening title track sounds like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry on a magic carpet ride over India, although the first solo comes not from tabla, sitar-guitar, sax or Hammond organ, but rather is whistled by Naren Budhakar, who manages to sound like a bansuri (northern Indian bamboo flute). Abassi (on sitar-guitar), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax) and Marc Mommass (tenor sax) take turns in flexing their muscles before all gradually coiling together, the sound growing and intensifying until the listener is caught up in the eye of a furious storm. It's a rollicking start for the album.
Kiran Ahluwalia brings her ethereal, arresting Indian vocals to several of the tracks. On "Thin Elephant, which starts with an acoustic, Mahavishnu Orchestra-like motif, Ahluwalia sounds like a muezzin with the blues calling from the minaret. Abbasi takes a very lyrical solo and the song fades out with a Hammond organ solo by Gary Versace. On "Mid-Life, Ahluwalia's voice joins the two saxophone voices and electric guitar; here, Abbasi artfully builds up and then deconstructs layers of sounds.
"Life Goes reminds us that this is essentially a Hammond, guitar and drums trio, and when it's stripped down to the basic components, we can hear Abbasi's phenomenal six-string talent and original phrasing to great effect. Versace is no less a talent; his solo here is an album highlight. Danny Weiss's drumming throughout is tight and punchy, with occasional explosions of cymbals.
"Hindu Myth has a vibe at the beginning very much like Bill Frisell's Gone, Just Like A Train (Nonesuch Records, 1998), building atmospherically before the eruption of Hammond histrionics, soaring guitar and propulsive drums shifts things up a gear or twoand it all ends as suddenly as running into a brick wall. The album closes with the acoustic reverie of "Destiny Owes You, and Abassi concludes the proceedings with a simple statement of appreciation: "Thanks, guys.
Yes guys, thanks indeed.
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 (8); Kiran Ahluwalia: Indian vocals (2,3,7); Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone (1,7); Marc Mommaas: tenor and soprano saxophone (1,7); Gautam Siriam: mridnagam (2,5,6); Naren Budhakar: whistling (1).