Magazine article Guitar Player

Rez Abbasi's New World Vision

Magazine article Guitar Player

Rez Abbasi's New World Vision

Article excerpt

Electric sitars, tabla drums, and Indian ragas are not typical ingredients in small-combo jazz. But for New York-based guitarist Rez Abbasi, incorporating these exotic elements alongside more traditional ones seems a logical musical development.

"Jazz is really a mixture of African rhythms and European harmony, so it has always been a multi-cultural affair," he explains.

Abbasi's latest CD, Snake Charmer [Earth Sounds], is a forward-looking mix of post-hard-bop exploration, rock energy, and Indian tradition that juxtaposes a guitar/organ/drum trio against colorful Eastern-tinged backdrops. "I think it's very 21st Century to compose texturally," he says. "It's not enough just to have a direct composition anymore. You need to have other layers, as well. So Kiran Ahluwalia sang traditional Indian vocals and played a drone instrument called the tanpura, Danny Weiss played tabla and drum kit, and I played a Jerry Jones-built electric sitar on several cuts."

Although John McLaughlin had explored Indian sounds with Shakti back in the '70s, Abbasi--who prefers the tone of a solid-body D'Angelico NYSD-9 direct into a Marshall Valvestate combo--sees Snake Charmer as a more organic combination of the two styles. "We're a jazz group with Indian influences, whereas Shakti was more of an Indian group with John McLanghlin added," he says.

And while many of Snake Charmer's improvisations are based on Western modes--and nod to Ornette Coleman's harmelodic approach (the elimination of harmonic structure in lieu of linear melodic improvisation, sometimes called free jazz)--Abbasi's melodic lines and use of additive rhythms (small rhythmic fragments that add up to form a larger cycle) have a decidedly Eastern accent. …

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