Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rez Abbasi

 Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet - Natural Selection - Sunnyside SSC 1264

    Undeniably guitarist Rez Abbasi is one of the most unusual guitarists today. Not so much because of his style per se but because of the refreshing playing situations he puts himself in. (Admittedly, this writer was never really endeared to Abbasi's music prior to this recording. But prejudices aside I've been won over).
    With the burgeoning ascent of 'world music' as a 'legitimate' aesthetic classification, being a branch of the jazz tree does instrumentalists like Abbasi well. They are able to have a 'toe-hold' in both arenas thereby bridging a much needed gap audience wise. The only 'grey' area is the melding of 'world music' with 'smooth jazz' genres by some well meaning record companies.
    This new recording by Abbasi's Acoustic Quartet, 'Natural Selection' on paper seems spare, with guitar, vibes, bass and drums. Yet because of Abbasi's great writing and unique arrangements of tunes like Joe Henderson's 'Punjab'; Keith Jarrett's 'Personal Mountains' and a Bill Wither's nod, 'Ain't No Sunshine' this quartet comes up sounding a lot larger than what appears on paper. There are some moments like on the disc's opener, 'Lament' that sonically harken back to the ECM sound of the 70s;  an eerily ornate and stately atmospheric aura recalling Ralph Towner, Egberto Gismonti and John Abercrombie.
    In the discs liner notes Abbasi is very clear on his vision for the music, "the blend of the acoustic guitar with vibraphone is one I've envisioned for years and that I've not heard so far on other recordings". And that, "I was conscious of magnifying the group's unique chamber-like sound..."
    And yes, there are moments of chamber-like playing and essence. Which gives a nod, if ever so slight to the genius of John Lewis. But it is the cohesive quality of continuity that ultimate gives us a satisfying session and anticipation of things to come. Hopefully Abbasi will flesh out more acoustic terrain for all to hear.
(Kudos to Christopher Drukker for the tremendous cover art)
Rez Abbasi, acoustic guitars/ Bill Ware, vibraphone/ Stephan Crump,acoustic bass/ Eric McPherson,drums


L.A. Emenari, III

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