Born in Pakistan, raised in Southern California and having an impressive educational transcript that includes a study in India with tabla master Alla Rakha, guitarist and percussionist Rez Abassi has explored a lot of terrain both musically and physically. His latest release, Out of Body
, demonstrates that his quest is far from over. Mr. Abassi leads a conventional enough quintet--his guitar, plus saxophone, trumpet, bass and drums--but the results are varied and surprising.
The CD is made up entirely of original compositions by Abassi, each displaying different facets of his musical personality and his considerable skill as a writer. The opening "To Your Perfection" is a dense piece with complicated changes and polyrhythms (excellently handled by drummer Bruce Hall) that wouldn't feel out of place on a Grand Wazoo
era Frank Zappa record, though Abassi is a much cleaner and less confrontational soloist than the Wazoo himself was. "Winner's Circle" is written in a harmolodic vein, recalling Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheney's collaboration on Song X
, with Ron Horton quietly stealing the show with intriguing counterpoint on the trumpet. Other highlights of the CD included the middle-eastern tinged "Phosphor Colors," which highlights the bandleader on the acoustic guitar, and "Ganges," an extended piece that finds him switching between the tablas and the guitar.
This is smart and unique music. Rez Abassi infuses his playing and writing with elements from the east and middle east while never losing sight of jazz essentials. Anyone interested in the possibilities of the guitar in jazz should take a listen to what he has to say.