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.
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