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Interviews

Rez Abbasi: Reziliently Brilliant

By Published: June 1, 2002
AAJ: Agreed. Can you hip us to what you feel are your best recorded solos and why?

RA: As far as my soloing, I do like a lot of the stuff on my new CD. Particularly "Phosphor Colors" which is done on steel string acoustic and "Dark Bones" on electric. I've done some playing recently on the new David Phillips recording and the Sunny Jain Collective that I'm also very happy with. Hopefully these recordings should be out soon.

AAJ: Can you point us toward what source material- books, educational coursework or material, or analysis of recordings- which has proven rich for you in terms of composition/harmony?

RA: I've done a lot of deep listening. When I had more time, I transcribed compositions of long form as well as short tune material. One experience that proved to be helpful was that at age 21, I studied Bartok's "Strings, Percussion and Celeste" every week for a year. It really opened up my world because it was something very new to my ears. That's where I think the growth will come from- something new. Around the same time I was studying with one of Pandit Ravi Shankar's disciples. We would work solely on rhythm which then led me into playing tablas for a good year. At U.S.C. I had the opportunity to be present at two master classes given by Nicholas Slominsky. Knowing how influential he was on Coltrane, and therefore the rest of jazz, I looked into his Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns.

Basically I learned the most about composition just by doing it because then, you really get into yourself through all the turmoil of trying to finish a piece. The old adage of "no pain, no gain" really does apply here. I also think asking questions to those who inspire you goes a long way.

AAJ: Tell us the differences, if any, of the European circuit versus the American circuit for your thing.

RA: Interesting you ask because I was just thinking of this since I came off a mid-west tour. I believe that there isn't a strong audience for my music in America especially since jazz in general sells so little. For the most part, a large percentage of people here are into quick recognizable material. From my experiences in Europe, people are more used to growing up with symphonic works as well as the pop culture, so they are able to sit and enjoy an entirely new experience. That's not to say there weren't some very hip people I met on this tour- just not a lot. And that's also not to say that the audience can't grow in the States.

AAJ: Who are the working members of your band? How did you go about assembling such a talented cast of musicians for your first record?

RA: Right now I play with a bunch of different musicians. It's difficult to say that I have a working band because there's not a lot of work to be had. I'm a little in experimental mode although some of the guys I'm using include Marc Mommaas
Marc Mommaas
Marc Mommaas
b.1969
sax, tenor
, Adam Kolker, John Hebert, Gary Versace
Gary Versace
Gary Versace

organ, Hammond B3
, Michael Sarin, Satoshi Takieshi, etc. I've composed another record's-worth of material but am also working on developing a different record's-worth of music for a different project at the same time. Let's just say it's up in the air for now.

Third Ear was actually two separate sessions. My short-lived working band at the time was what ended up as the first session and included, Billy Drewes, Russ Lossing
Russ Lossing
Russ Lossing

piano
, Scott Colley
Scott Colley
Scott Colley
b.1963
bass
and Ben Perowsky
Ben Perowsky
Ben Perowsky
b.1966
drums
. After a year of shopping and getting nowhere with a record deal, I decided to eventually finish it myself. At the time I was studying with Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
b.1951
piano
, who really liked the session and offered to help me finish it. Through Kenny's inspiration, I sent tapes to Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
and Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
, who, at the time, I was listening to frequently with John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
b.1944
guitar
's trio. They all dug the session and were very enthused about finishing it. Erskine was already going into the studio with Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
b.1953
saxophone
and so I coordinated such that my session would take place the same days, but after Mintzer's, therefore bypassing travel expenses, set-up time, etc. I also had Bob play on two tracks. Although those sessions were done a decade ago and my playing has grown, people say it still sounds new. I consider that a great compliment.

AAJ: How are you enjoying your foray into the independent scene? Do you have any assistance or are you doing everything yourself? Do you have management? Have you signed on with an American or European distributor?

RA: It's all done through my website at reztone.com. After being offered three separate deals from labels, I came to a conclusion that I didn't want to give up publishing or ownership to anyone unless the money and distribution were adequate, and they weren't. The CD's will eventually be available in Europe through a company called String Jazz.

AAJ: Please tell us a bit about the evolution of the concepts for your most recent stuff.

RA: I don't usually think about trying to directly apply musical concepts and such because I let all ideas evolve organically and if they don't surface, so be it. Ideally, I feel that if my music retains concepts without being forced into the light, I've succeeded.

That being said, my recent venture has been working with Indian ragas and using them as vehicles for compositions. The difficulty here is that it's not easy to stick with one raga. My ear is chromatically trained so I'll sometimes end up outside the raga-oh, well. As long as there are traces of the influence, that's good enough for me.


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