In a fusion of contemporary jazz and world music, guitarist Rez Abbasi sets out to bring distant nations together on Snake Charmer. His fiery electric guitars deliver a contemporary punch.
With organ and drums, he drives a portion of the session in high gear. His music explodes as the trio explores contemporary jazz from a Western perspective.
Dave Liebman and Kiran Ahluwalia join Abbasi on "Pearl" for a different approach altogether as they explore the music of India in a contemporary setting. Liebman's soprano saxophone is as much a snake charmer as is Abbasi's guitar. With "Motherland," the leader moves to sitar-guitar with his trio. With Danny Weiss on tabla and Gary Versace on organ, the trio weaves an intricate web. They mesmerize.
World music and contemporary jazz have long been associated. Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong provided dreams of distant lands. On his "Kismet," Abbasi recalls the adventurousness of Dizzy Gillespie. Vocalist Ahluwalia scat sings as the guitarist rains burning melodies that sizzle. The trio provides a natural landscape, however, and the overall mood of the piece is restrained. Throughout most of the session, Abbasi, a fiery guitarist, keeps his themes subdued and under control. The smoothness of his music provides a pleasant experience that most listeners will find accessible.
Liebman's smooth offering on "Rumi" adds a mystical color to the trio's venture. As with smooth jazz in general, the piece maintains a subdued vibrancy.
What's missing from Abbasi's session is a balance between fire and serenity. Most of the program remains calm and placid. The trio sizzles, but they have yet to take off. "Blood Orange" comes closest to seeing their passion unleashed, as the trio tosses out sparks of contemporary lightning. Abbasi is a fiery guitarist. However, he's decided to charm the snake, this time out, by employing a gentle spirit.
Personnel: Rez Abbasi- guitars, sitar-guitar, surmandal, percussion; Gary Versace- organ; Danny Weiss- drums, tabla; Kiran Ahluwalia- Indian vocals, tanpura; Dave Liebman- soprano saxophone on "Pearl" and "Rumi."