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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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REZ ABBASI
ACOUSTIC QUARTET

Intents and Purposes

ENJA 9621 2

 

 

1. Black Market

2. Butterfly

3. Joyous Lake

4. Medieval Overture

5. Resolution

6. Red Baron

7. Low-Lee-Tah

8. There Comes a Time

Rez Abbasi - Steel string, fretless and baritone acoustic guitars

Bill Ware – Vibes

Stephan Crump – Acoustic bass

Eric McPherson - Drums

Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan and raised in California. His latest album is a bit of a surprise, containing entirely acoustic music. He tackles various tunes from the jazz-rock era of the 1970s but discards their electric apparatus in favour of a gentle, acoustic approach which makes them sound entirely new. The line-up is also unusual: guitar, vibes, bass and drums, but this allows the group to play gently some tunes which were probably louder when they were first released.

For instance, Joe Zawinul’s Black Market first appeared on Weather Report’s 1976 Black Market album, with forceful electric keyboards and snarling bass. Rez Abbasi’s quartet presents it in an entirely different fashion. Everything is quietened down and subdued into a soothing experience. This might be expected to imply a lack of backbone, but the quartet manages to keep enough hidden power beneath the notes.

Similarly, Butterfly from Herbie Hancock’s 1974 album Thrust had bass-heavy instrumentation and grinding keyboards. Rez Abbasi offers a slimmed-down interpretation which is forceful enough but not overbearing. The vibraphone drifts intriguingly beneath the guitar. On several other tracks, the vibes plays in unison with the guitar, making a surprisingly tasty combination. Bass and drums help the reflective mood, never accenting too fiercely for the good of the music.

As with Larry Coryell’s original, Rez Abbasi’s Low-Lee-Tah has prominent guitars but Abbasi’s version stays in the same placid mode rather than breaking out fiercely in the middle as Coryell’s does. Nonetheless Red Baron (from Billy Cobham’s album Spectrum) has quite a lot of muscle, although it is nowhere near as assertive as the original.

In these days of powerhouse rock groups, it is a brave enterprise to issue an album which makes a virtue of tenderness but it succeeds splendidly, creating its own distinctive sound world and calm atmosphere.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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