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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rez Abbasi Trio: Continuous Beat

In past outings, jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi has created challenging bands that mixed and matched voices in ways that fostered cultural cross-pollination and dressed up his strong compositions. Continuous Beat is a different kind of collection, and it may just be the leader’s best. Certainly it is his most joyful and pure: a trio record that really makes us appreciate Abbasi as a guitar player, as an interpreter, and as a writer of irresistible tunes.

This band—with John Hebert on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums—plays as one but in a state on continual conversation. Hebert’s lines are strong and independent, ripe in low tone and interesting all on their own. Takeishi plays such that he is constantly creating a poly-rhythmic dance, pushing and pulling the groove without overwhelming the rest of the band. And with a leader who is as melodic as Abbasi, the total package is a joy to listen to in every measure.

While this is no “smooth jazz” outing, the spirit about Continuous Beat is as appealing and easy on the ears as a Pat Metheny record. Indeed, the inevitable comparison is to Metheny’s first trio record, Bright Size Life from 1975. As on that sparkling debut, this band achieves a perfect balance between consonance and departure. This is jazz that plays straight to what audiences love—melody and infectious rhythm—without sacrificing group conversation and adventure.

As the title implies, this new record is rich in a pulsating groove. “Divided Attention” uses a tricky time signature but doesn’t skimp of propulsion, with the guitar and drums rapping out a syncopated groove that becomes the melody itself. Abbasi’s ability to pluck a killer melody starts in his statements using a “clean” sound on the head, then it shifts to a more distorted sound for the true solo, with the lines of improvisation starting to get faster and harder over time. “Back Skin”, another original, works a memorable melody through both the bass line and the guitar lead (played here on a guitar-synth that uses a sound less grating than Metheny’s), leading to a strong solo that flows naturally like a river over the same hooky groove until the band increases the tempo and takes things forward with rushing momentum, twice shifting tempo. It’s a perfect example of how Continuous Beat refuses to play it too safe.

Read my entire PopMatters review here:  Rez Abbasi Trio: Continuous Beat

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