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Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe

Glenn Astarita By

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Guitarist Rez Abbasi, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and pianist Vijay Iyer share South Asian roots and have respectively incorporated many of the region's modalities and song-forms into the progressive jazz idiom at various points in time as solo artists or collaborators. Hence, the musicians coalesce for the third chapter of Abassi's Invocation group that merges South Asian music with ultra-modern jazz, often executed at warp speed amid supple time signatures and Herculean soloing activities.

Largely built on tightly coordinated unison choruses and accenting cadences, Abassi's dark-toned electric guitar phrasings and Mahanthappa's bristling sax notes signify a potent force-field atop the pulsating rhythm section, tinted with off-centered diversions. But if you can imagine the frontline employing South Asian instruments instead of sax, guitar, and piano, then it may offer additional insight into the band's pre-conceived impetus.

The album title Unfiltered Universe may have a separate correlation for the leader, but after listening to this set, my impression elicits notions of an open musical world, similar to customary jazz—world music implications. Indeed, globalization exists on many fronts these days, and thankfully, artists such as Abbasi and associates embrace these seemingly immeasurable possibilities on a recurring basis.

Drummer Dan Weiss dances across the kit as Iyer's multi-purposed voicings help anchor the complex rhythmic enactments, paralleling his solos and dialogues with the guitarist and saxophonist. There's a range of emotive aspects, whether the group is dishing out highly technical passages or fusing a touch of Western blues fare into the jazz-meets-South Asia extrapolations, evidenced on "Thin-King." Here, Iyer's swelling chord clusters are tempered by bassist Johannes Weidenmueller's hearty solo during a quiet passage, offset by shifting tempos.

"Disagree to Agree," begins with cellist Elizabeth Mikhael's soothing arco notes, hinting that a ballad is about to occur, which is not the case, as the band gels to a pumping groove, jilted with shifting dynamics and the soloists' exchanges. On this piece the quintet ascends into a higher realm of consciousness due to Abbasi's feverish flurries and Mahanthappa's forceful lines, embedded with a slight rasp. However, there are several passages interspersed throughout the album where the guitarist builds tension via animated upsurges and distortion imbued atmospherics, so the musicians do not continually operate at breakneck speed. Yet it's an action-packed gala that progresses with transcendental overtones and the artists' electrifying mode of attack.

Track Listing: Propensity; Unfiltered Universe; Thoughts; Thin-King; Turn Of Events; Disagree To Agree; Dance Number.

Personnel: Rez Abbasi: guitar; Vijay Iyer: piano; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Johannes Weidenmueller: double bass; Dan Weiss: drums; Elizabeth Mikhael: cello.

Title: Unfiltered Universe | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

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