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Rez Abbasi: Things To Come

Mark F. Turner By

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Pakistani/American guitarist Rez Abbasi has been a part of the emerging growth of South Asian jazz musicians which includes the very noted names of pianist Vijay Iyer, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and guitarist Fareed Haque, and celebrated recordings Apti (Innova Recordings, 2009) and Kinsmen (Pi Recordings, 2008).

A brilliant technician, Abbasi is noted for blending shrewd chops with South Asian and Western concepts. Here he presents Things To Come , not just follow-up to 2006's Bazaar (Zoho Music) but the fruition of new exploration and cerebral composition. As stated in his liner notes, the goal was "to create a sound that forms its own identity," and this release emphatically accomplishes the task.

The music is perfectly translated by a remarkable band that includes like-minded visionaries—Iyer and Mahanthappa, drummer Dan Weiss, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, and guests Mike Block on cello and Abbasi's wife, award- winning Indian vocalist, Kiran Ahluwalia.

Whereas some familiar recordings have incorporated the typical rhythmic constructs of tabla and vocalizations, Abbasi's music makes use of freer jazz concepts and detailed composition, bringing to mind, in part, the music of the great Andrew Hill and Greg Osby's cerebral and groove- oriented thinking. No tabla here, Weiss does the duties on a standard drum kit, but as he's proven time and time again on previous collaborations with Abbasi, there's nothing ordinary about his meticulous and creative traps, as he and Weidenmueller's profound bass underpin Abbasi's complex arrangements.

The celestial "Dream State" commences with harp-like strings, then moves into an undulating groove where Iyer's avant-garde keys roam free, followed by Abbasi's fuzzed tone probings and a burning statement from Mahanthappa's angular alto. "Air Traffic" is altogether different, painted with Ahluwalia's strange yet beautiful vocals and Mahanthappa's stiletto precision. Many of the tracks follow this anatomy—nodes connecting, disconnecting and reforming into elaborate webs of flowing sound.

The music, though challenging, is steeped in emotion and imagination. The captivating title, the shortest track, is a dream-induced duet with Abbasi's lush acoustic guitar and Ahluwalia's angelic voice. Or the longest track, the fascinating "Within Sanity" which features intrepid solos, shifting movements, and a riveting self collapsing ending.

It would be in incorrect to state that Abbasi has arrived, with his already impressive body of work, but Things To Come , as aptly titled, signals a new chapter in the evolution of a masterful musician and thinker, leaving much anticipation for what he'll deliver next.

Track Listing: Dream State; Air Traffic; Hard Colors; Things to Come; Why Me Why Them; Within Sanity; Realities of Chromaticism; Insulin.

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).

Title: Things To Come | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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