Here is one of best and unique recordings of 2011—a wildly fun and powerful outing from jazz guitarist Rez Abassi. Outwardly, this band (with Vijay Iyer on piano and Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax—essentially an all-star band) is creating a surging connection between jazz and Pakistani music. But to my simpler and less sophisticated ears this sounds like a super-smart fusion record.
Other than Abbasi’s occasionally over-driven electric guitar, this would hardly seem like a real “fusion” band. But the leader’s compositions and arrangements make it so nevertheless, built as they are on lean and repeated licks that lock together across a rock-solid backbeat. “Onus on Us”, for example, starts simply enough with a syncopated two-chord groove, then it tacks on a basic and clear unison melody for alto and guitar. Quickly, however, the drums grow more complex, and the bass line interlocks with the melody, which in turns starts to jabber with more complexity. The whole arrangement comes together not just in trickiness but also in a programmed mutation into different rhythms and forms — so, for example, the guitar solo has a different, stuttering rhythmic feel than the statement of melody. So the music is “fusiony” in two ways: in that it relies on complex and precise arrangements that do not shy away from a certain virtuosity, and that drummer Dan Weiss plays with a rock-level of energy across the tunes.
Read my entire review of the disc here: Rez Abbasi's Invocation: Suno Suno