Intents and Purposes – Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet meets 80s Jazz Fusion
One of the albums that has been in my music rotation is Intents and Purposes for the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet Rez Abassi is a jazz guitarist and rising star on the jazz scene. He was voted #2 “Rising Star” guitarist in DownBeat magazine’s 2012’s esteemed Critic’s Poll, and #1 in 2013’s poll, Intents and Purposes is Abbasi tenth album and throughout his career he has become best known for music that blends jazz with Indian music. On his first eight albums he has been both a leader and a collaborator. His collaborations have been with Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist, Vijay Iyer and with his wife, Juno-award-winning Indo-Canadian singer/songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia, for whom Abbasi serves as musical. On his last two albums the influence of Indian music on his music has been more subdued. His 2012 release Continuous Beat featured a trio composed of bassist John Hébert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi.
Intents and Purposes finds Abbasi leading an acoustic quartet featuring Abbasi along with vibraphonist Bill Ware, bassist Stefan Crump and drummer Eric McPherson. The album is composed on acoustic arrangements of 70s variety of Fusion and World music. Tracks include music from Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham and others.From his website….
For the new album, Abbasi and his bandmates excavated the melodic and harmonic essence of a handful of fusion classics, re-orchestrating them for the group’s distinctive combination of timbres, especially the unusual blend of acoustic guitar and vibes. Gone are the ARP and Oberheim synthesizers Joe Zawinul played on Weather Report’s “Black Market”; the ring-modulated Rhodes from Billy
Cobham’s “Red Baron”; and the phase-shifted electric guitar from Larry Coryell’s “Low-Lee-Tah.” Gone, too, are all the digital effects Abbasi used so creatively on Continuous Beat. On those songs and Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly,” Pat Martino’s “Joyous Lake,” Chick
Corea and Return to Forever’s “Medieval Overture,” John McLaughlin’s “Resolution” and Tony Williams’ “There Comes A Time,” the band strips away the electronic flash from the original tracks and rediscovers the underlying compositions, playing with a freedom that can only come from being profoundly locked into the rhythm and from the band’s unfaltering trust in each other.
Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan. His family moved to the US when he was four and he was raised in California. He now resides in New York City. Abbasi was born in 1965 so he basically came of age musically in the mid-1980s and what he was listening to and playing was not JAZZ and particularly not fusion. On his website Abbasi says this about how this affected Intents and Purposes
For a lot of musicians my age, fusion was their entry point into jazz. But it wasn’t mine. I hadn’t listened to 90 percent of [it] before this project. When I discovered jazz, as a 16-year-old in the ’80s, I had just been playing in a bunch of bands
that played Rush, Yes and Van Halen, and I listened to a lot of King Crimson. So when I discovered jazz—Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” was the first jazz tune I heard—it was all about the acoustic nature of the music, the feel, the swing. Then when I first heard fusion, it was all too reminiscent of what I had just left—somewhat polished music with a heavy, straight-eighth feel. The electricity,
high energy, high volumes—those were a lot of the things I found appealing when I was young, but didn’t find them in Parker and Coltrane.” From Downbeat Magazine -March 2015
This lack of familiarity with fusion resulted in the following:
Approaching the fusion era with an utter lack of nostalgia gave Abbasi a different—and more dispassionate—perspective than if he had listened to, played and loved that music during his impressionistic teen years: “I had a clean slate as I started the project. That was important because instead of the music being attached to extra-musical experiences, such as high school or vacations, the choices came from a present-day aesthetic—who I am and what I like inmusic right now. All the decisions were musical. So I could be somewhat objective, even given the subjectivity of an aesthetic choice.” From Downbeat Magazine -March 2015
Bottom Line: The result of all of the above is the terrific Intents and Purposes. I must confess that like Abbasi I have a lack of familiarity with jazz fusion also. So I don’t know a lot of the tunes. All I really know is that I love what I hear on the album! And while I like Abbasi’s guitar work, it was the vibraphone of Bill Ware that caught my attention on the first listen of the album!! Intents and Purposes is easily one of my favorite albums of the year! So Check It Out!!
Links for Further Explorations of the Music of Rez Abbasi
Here is “Black Market” the opening track from Intents and Purposes