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"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Monday, January 3, 2011

JAZZ TODAY: An Interview with Guitarist Rez Abbasi

I'm an excitable guy, so maybe every year seems like a great one in jazz to me.  But I thought 2010 was a blockbuster.  One of the keenest recordings this year that appeared on far too few top-ten lists was Rez Abbasi's Natural Selection, featuring his acoustic quartet.

My latest JAZZ TODAY column features a long interview with Abbasi—I know you'll find it interesting.  Abbasi is a warm and keenly intelligent man.  He was charming to talk to, revealing plenty of interesting information about how he works, how he approaches improvisation, and how he approaches the economic challenges of being a jazz musician in 2011.

Mostly Abbasi is known for his electric work in a free-wheeling, modern vein.  His previous disc, Things To Come, was a highlight of 2009, featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto, Vijay Iyer on piano, and Abbasi's wife, the vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia.  Abbasi managed to fuse up-to-the-minute jazz with South Asian micro-tonal composing in an thrilling effort.  Abbasi plays as a sideman in groups led by Mahanthappa as well.

But Natural Selection sounds more focused and traditional, perhaps.  The acoustic ensemble is beautifully enhanced by the vibes playing of Bill Ware (The Jazz Passengers), Stephan Crump on bass (from Iyer's recent trio, leader of the Rosetta Trio, and accompanist of his wife, vocalist Jen Chapin), and Eric McPherson's drums.  Abbasi tackles unusual repertoire: Keith Jarrett's "Personal Mountains" as well as Joe Henderson's "Punjab", not to mention an overdubbed guitar duet on "Ain't No Sunshine."  Abbasi's originals have snap and intriguing structure, and he includes some work containing idiomatically "Indian" elements, but that's not mainly that this disc is about.

Thanks for the interview, Rez.  May 2011 bring you more success!  The music is GREAT.

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