Bassist Stephan Crump opens the new CD by guitarist Rez Abbasi, the #1 Rising Star Guitarist in the 2013 International Critics Poll by Downbeat Magazine. He introduces the Weather Report classic “Black Market” which soon unfolds into the familiar 70s fusion piece written by Joe Zawinul. And also marks the starting point to a fresh, innovative look into that so-called Jazz-Rock or Fusion-Jazz genre of a period in Jazz which is considered as sort of ambivalent because of its sometimes synthetic nature.
But Abbasi, the Karachi, Pakistan-born guitarist, handles the eight tracks on display with a deep and modern approach that you actually want to dig out the originals again only to realize that they all are now timeless tunes. Take for example Herbie Hancock‘s “Butterfly”, which recently had also been recorded by Gretchen Parlato and was also re-released on a Norman Connors album: the use of vibraphone, played here exquisitely by the amazing Bill Ware, revisits not only the awkward funkiness of the original, but also takes it to new, chamber-jazz heights. On the Return To Forever track “Medieval Overture”, written by Chick Corea, Bill Ware paints a completely new, invigorating picture of this Fusion warhorse. Or the John McLaughlin tune “Resolution” (Mahavishnu Orchestra), where Ware plays vivid solos over the melody.
The leader not only plays acoustic guitar here (of the fretless and baritone kind), but also a hypnotic steel string which comes into full effect on the aforementioned Hancock tune and also on the last track here. In the liner notes, Abbasi says: “Because of my lack of prior experience with 70s Jazz, there’s been very little nostalgia involved with this project allowing for a clarity that may not have been possible otherwise.” And the nostalgia factor actually is zero here. In fact, with Larry Coryell‘s “Low-Lee-Tah”, Abbasi shows that he is counted among the best guitarists currently around as he plays a vital duo here with himself. With Stephan Crump on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, this quartet releases a captivating collection of an idiosyncratic 70s Jazz soundtrack. The album ends with the hypnotic Tony Williams piece “There Comes A Time” from the 1971 Lifetime album “Ego”.
The Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet will play their CD release concerts (official release date is February 10th) this week in California: at Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz (2/12), The Piano Kitchen in Santa Barbara (2/13), Alva’s Showroom in San Pedro (2/14), Dizzy’s in San Diego (2/15), and the Sonoma State University (2/18). The East Coast CD release concerts will be at Cornelia Street Café on May 1st and 2nd in New York.