Sometimes it’s a little difficult to pin down the work of a particular musician and assign a genre or type to it, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I think that a lot of listeners – and I include myself – have a tendency to make assumptions about an artist before we ever hear the music, especially if that artist has been described and labeled too narrowly.
That’s uppermost in my mind as I describe Rez Abbasi’s new album, Bazaar, which is coming out soon on the Zoho label. (It’s his first for them, but fifth overall.) He’s an accomplished guitarist whose music has been described as jazz fusion — but that doesn’t really tell you much about the diversity of sounds on this album. I could also report that not only is he a talented guitarist who lists as his influences George Benson, Pat Metheny and Jim Hall, but that he occasionally uses his hybrid sitar-guitar for a different and unique sound, and that might help you understand how the music on this album defies easy classification.
Abbasi, who was born in Pakistan but moved to America when very small, has built this album around the idea that a bazaar is a place where people come together in joyful and surprising ways, whether it’s in a small village in Asia or a shopping mall in America. Abbasi sees his music reflecting that same spirit. “As a child in Pakistan, I remember going to the bazaars, never knowing what to expect other than the unexpected. This is the quality I prefer to live with, particularly in the process of making or listening to my music.”
He’s joined on the album by several of his regulars, notably Danny Weiss on drums and Gary Versace on Hammond organ, and on some tunes by a couple of good sax players, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Marc Mommass. The ensemble is also occasionally graced by the presence of his wife, Kiran Ahluwalia, who is a renowned vocalist in her own right. The couple often perform together and her unusual and spiritual voice shows up memorably on the title tune of the album, which sets the mood of the “Bazaar” as it even includes one of the band-members whistling convincingly, imitating an Indian pipe. You can almost imagine the cobra weaving.
Some cuts are more subdued and softly flowing, for example “Thin Elephant”, which features Kiran coaxing her voice into a sound that’s almost like the Muslim call to prayer. For something a little different, I enjoyed “Life Goes”, which picks up into a fuller jazz fusion sound and enters into delightfully funky territory. Somewhere between the two in tempo is “Mid-Life”, which again features Kiran’s vocal but in a more traditional singing style.
About the only cut I didn’t connect with was “Hindu-Myth” which instrumentally was strong, but includes some unusual vocalizations that didn’t appeal to me…but might to someone else.
I’m including a full-length sample of a song that I felt best illustrated the overall sense of the album. It’s called “You People”, and if you like it then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the entire album. (You can also go to the Amazon link and sample other songs.)
Something a little different but very enjoyable, and I’d urge you to try it.
Rez Abbasi – Bazaar
3. Thin Elephant
4. Life Goes
5. You People Intro
6. You People
9. Destiny Owes You