Music Reviews

Rez Abbasi & Junction

Behind the Vibration

Rez Abbasi & Junction Behind the Vibration

Cuneiform Records

Formats available: CD

Rez Abbasi, a stalwart of the New York jazz scene with a good twenty five years’ experience and twelve recorded albums under his belt informs us that the music on this new release is intended to create an intersection, a junction where all the music that he and his band love can come together. In his words, it’s not jazz but the music of now. Trying to avoid being neatly filed away in a category is a typical response of many a musician and yet for the rest of us there has to be some sort of frame of reference to begin with. Abbasi and his band return to the glory days of jazz-rock, trying to recapture its original spirit before it became a joyless, million note a minute marathon. To this they add a myriad of other influences and ideas all presented in a very ‘in the moment’ type of recording where the listener has the constant sensation of witnessing a live performance.

From the opening ‘Holy Butter’ it is immediately obvious that Abbasi thrives on writing and performing material that demands a highly cohesive performance by the whole band. Here we find plenty of propulsive strength in Kenny Grohowski’s drums which deliver constant deep grooves along with Mark  Shim’s doubling on tenor saxophone and Wind Controller (a synthesizer that plays like a sax), and Ben Stivers proposing differing sounds on Rhodes and Hammond B3. Overall, what we have here is a complex sound, a uniquely New York scene mixture of deep grooves and intricate combinations of shimmering sax and sizzling organ. Abbasi himself often leans towards Allan Holdsworth’s legato style without being overtly cerebral and yet often shifting towards a jazzier and more pristine sound when required. The absence of a bass player reduces overall bandwidth but allows for more spacious arrangements where every nuance counts and the dialogue between musicians is more clearly revealed. There’s also the odd progressive rock intrusion; on ‘Inner Context’, the main melody played in unison by guitar, Wind Controller and organ could have easily come out of the classic Gentle Giant songbook. In spite of everything that has been said in fusion over the last fifty years, Rez Abbasi and Junction have somehow managed to find new avenues and make the whole thing sound fresh and invigorating. More of this please.

Charles Imperatori

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