Friday, September 11, 2009

Rez Abbasi - Things to Come (Sunnyside, 2009)

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is part of an emerging group of improvisers of South Asian decent that are adding a wonderful jolt of energy to modern jazz. By adding ideas from the lengthy history of music on the Indian sub-continent, he is able to develop a unique and fascinating conception for his music. Along with Abbasi on guitar, the band includes Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, Vijay Iyer on piano, and Dan Weiss on drums; joined by Mike Block on cello and Kiran Ahluwalia vocals on a few tracks. Rez Abbasi is a very diplomatic bandleader, giving much space to the musicians who are collaborating with him. "Dream State" has a nice piano solo that is thick and profound, plus neon blue sounding guitar which is stinging but well controlled. Mahanthappa comes in and wipes the slate clean with a strong saxophone solo that is deep and stimulating. "Hard Colors" is a fine example of their musical design with saxophone and guitar moving together over a strong piano, bass and drums trio and then making way for Ahulwalia's beautiful singing. She has a deep and flowing technique that echoes a saxophone and makes for a very interesting addition to the music. "Air Traffic" also has vocals and guitar improvising and then a very neat saxophone interlude. "Realities of Chromaticism" brings together thick and strong piano playing, which jolts like robust black coffee and a scalding and spitfire alto solo, making for a very exciting performance, and one of the highlights of the album. Mahanthappa has a very cool pinched citrus tone, like a cross between the angularity of Ornette and the fluidity of the great bebop saxophonists. The fronline of his taught guitar and Rudresh Mahanthappa's fascinating snake-charmer alto saxophone with the occasional addition of harmony vocals is album consistently interesting one. Add to this a dynamic bass and drum duo and a pianist with a strong and powerful technique and it makes for compelling music with a unique and interesting conception. This is exotic and exciting while still being accessible, and it is very fresh and thoughtfully produced.
Things to Come -

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