With his sixth outing as a leader, Pakistani-American guitar hero Rez Abbasi continues to reinvent himself, both musically and ideologically. He intertwines the quest for growth with a sense of humanity on this compelling release. Interspersed with ceremonious Eastern song-forms, Abbasi helps turn a new leaf on the sometimes staid, progressive-jazz realm. Featuring the highly-regarded and supremely talented frontline of saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
and pianist Vijay Iyer
, the program is laid out with a largely oscillating pulse, comprised of soaring, Indo- jazz crosscurrents and more.
Abbasi's linear and soaring single note leads propel the band into climactically- designed passages. At times, the musicians brand a slightly ominous edge, while also intertwining a positive stance into the grand mix. And the soloists dissect and reformulate melodies, abetted by Mahanthappa's sizzling 16th and 32nd note runs, with diva Kiran Ahluwalia equalizing the group's buoyancy during four pieces.
The guitarist often builds tension via his meticulously crafted solo spots, but also imparts a sense of spiritual fulfillment while generating a torrid prog-bop motif on the thorny "Why Me Why Them." Elsewhere, the musicians exercise a state of urgency, with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller
and drummer Dan Weiss
turning up the heat and kicking matters into eleventh gear. Abbasi varies the flow and overall perspective, however, during the moments of solitude heard at the onset of "Realities of Chromaticism." Here, guest cellist Mike Block's arco passages establish warmth, while Iyer counters with rhythmic block chords, as the unit segues into a sequence of high-impact statements. Mahanthappa spews bullets to assist with a consortium of angular dips and spikes, yet the musicians soften the implosion by revisiting the opening theme for its finale.
Abbasi signals in a polytonal and multi-directional muse for progressive-jazz, where hope looms mightily. It's an outing that reaffirms, and then extends his spiraling stature within global jazz factions. His acute perception and vision, coupled with a distinctly broad music vernacular translates into an album that irrefutably yields the bountiful fruit.
Personnel: Rez Abbasi: guitars; Dan Weiss: drums; Johannes Weidenmueller: bass;
Vijay Iyer: piano; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Mike Block:
cello (2, 7); Kiran Ahluwalia: Indian vocals (2-4, 6).