Rez Abbasi – Unfiltered Universe
(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4713. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Artist-led Whirlwind Recordings have, over the last few years, become one of the more interesting and eclectic labels; they are celebrating their 100th release with Karachi-born, New York-based guitarist/composer Rez Abbasi‘s new CD, which certainly fits the bill. Abbasi’s previous records have featured South East Asian instruments; here he uses only Western instrumentation but incorporates elements of South Indian carnatic music. The outcome is however entirely jazz.
Some tunes have long, sinuous melodic lines; others a jagged rhythmic feel reminiscent of M-Base – and some combine both. This results in a sense of travel as themes are explored and discoveries made.
Joined by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer on piano – musicians who are well versed in South Asian music as well as contemporary jazz and improvisation – together with Johannes Weidenmueller on bass and drummer Dan Weiss, and, on some tunes, cellist Elizabeth Mikhael, Abbasi creates thought-provoking music.
Indeed, two tracks, are called Thoughts and Thin-King. The short piece Thoughts uses treated solo guitar to build up complex patterns. Thin-King has a long, winding riff off which hang extended solos from Abbasi, Iyer, Weidenmueller and Mahanthappa, whose fast playing seems almost like it’s trying to escape the rhythm.
Turn of Events is a long, complex piece, its different sections forming a whole that is almost like a suite. Abbasi and Mahanthappa play a fast extended duet, their lines serpentine and entwined, and there is a slower but just as intense duet between Weidenmueller and Mikhael before a solo improvisation from Iyer and the band return to the central theme.
Iyer’s playing is powerful and imaginative throughout the record; Mahanthappa and Abbasi are dazzling. Abbasi has pulled together music that celebrates his roots and the current New York scene.