Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CD catchup capsule: Rez Abbasi - Things to Come

(Another in a pile of albums that have been lying around that I've meant to write about over the past few months)

Rez Abbasi
Things to Come

Guitarist Rez Abbasi was 1/3 of Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition that released Apti at the beginning of this year. For Abbasi's album (which came out sometime in at the tail end of the summer) that group reconvenes - Mahanthappa, drummer Dan Weiss - along with pianist Vijay Iyer and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller.

There are a lot of times where Abbasi's guitar sounds very clean and mild-mannered, which downplays the complexity (rhythmic and harmonic) of his writing. I expected things to get a little more tense or aggressive, especially considering the way Mahanthappa can tear things up. (It does, to an extent on "Why Me Why Them" and "Realities of Chromaticism.") And of course there's Iyer, the critical darling of this year - a distinction he has earned with good reason. He makes some unusual intervallic leaps in at least one track.

Things to Come is an appropriate name because while it isn't as strong as one might expect from this guitarist or this group of people, it shows great signs for Abbasi's future. In the meantime it still has a lot going for it. One thing that's especially strong in the use of Kiran Ahluwalia, the guitarist's wife, contributing wordless "indian vocals" (her credit on the CD, not my phrase) on four tracks. Never a fan of this type of singing, and a skeptic of most singing in progressive jazz, I was really taken with Ahluwalia's skill at acting like another instrument in the mix.