CD REVIEW: Rez Abbasi - Unfiltered Universe



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.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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