Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet RAAQ West Coast Tour
In Support of His New CD "Intents And Purposes" Guitarist Rez Abbasi Heads West With These Live Appearances
Feb. 12th - Kuumbwa Jazz, Santa Cruz
Feb. 13th - The Piano Kitchen - Santa Barbara
Feb. 14th - Alva's Showroom, San Pedro
Feb. 17th - The Addition, SF (formally Yoshi's)
Feb. 18th - Sonoma State Univ. (workshop)
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet RAAQ
"Intents And Purposes" (ENJA Records ENJ-9621-2)
Street Date: February 10, 2015
Rez Abbasi-steel string, fretless & baritone acoustic guitars,
Bill Ware-vibraphone, Stephan Crurmp-bass, Eric McPherson-drums
A fluent guitarist whether playing electric or acoustic, Rez Abbasi creates a pioneering album that challenges jazz convention with Intents and Purposes. Performed by his celebrated group, RAAQ, comprised of Bill Ware, vibes; Stephan Crump, acoustic bass; and Eric McPherson, drums, Intents and Purposes re-imagines such '70s jazz-rock classics as Weather Report's "Black Market, " Tony Williams' "There Comes A Time, " Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" and Pat Martino's "Joyous Lake." But far from a slavish sycophancy to a style of jazz that is now over 40 years old (and ripe for reappraisal), Abbasi - who had no interest in "fusion" as a young guitarist growing up in southern California - extracts the essential elements of these equally venerated and maligned jazz-rock gems, and transforms them into lithe vehicles for melodic extrapolation and instrumental improvisation on this all acoustic outing.
RAAQ's dual melodic front line: Abbasi's Guild Songbird steel-string acoustic guitar and Ware's vibraphone, is a first for acoustic jazz-rock interpretation. Throughout, Crump and McPherson's interaction is elastic, and consummately supportive. Interpreting '70s jazz-rock standards with an acoustic quartet recasts the music, exposing in high-relief its durable, memorable melodies and bold improvisatory capabilities, realized anew by RAAQ.
"These tunes are very fresh to me, " says the 48-year-old Abbasi, "and that's one of the reasons behind the album - pure inspiration in discovering something that has long existed for many musicians but is new to me. That's a rare dichotomy and I wanted to take advantage of it. In 1982, I discovered jazz through the likes of Parker, Coltrane and many others. I had little interest in listening to non-acoustic music and pretty much bypassed listening to the entire fusion songbook all the while playing electric guitar."
In preparation for recording Intents and Purposes, Abbasi's days were spent listening to 100s of albums of what for him was new jazz-rock material. Revisiting tunes that caught his ear and selecting those that he thought best suited RAAQ, Abbasi created a new approach to the vintage jazz-rock idiom.
"Because of my lack of prior experience with '70s jazz, " Abbasi says, "there's very little nostalgia involved with this project, allowing for a clarity that may not have been possible otherwise. That clarity ultimately helped me decide which tunes to chose purely based on aesthetics."
The familiar strains of Joe Zawinul's "Black Market" open the album, the melody sounding remarkably delicate via Abbasi's flowing guitar. "When I discovered 'Black Market' I couldn't get it out of my head, " Rez notes. The song unfurls in a series of surprises, from McPherson's dancing punctuations to Ware's gorgeous, atmospheric harmonies.
Hancock's "Butterfly" is instantly recognizable and entrancing. Abbasi plays a fretless steel-string guitar on the track. Its ability to bend notes adds a sense of mystery to an already memorable composition. Abbasi recalls, "I had an extra acoustic around the house and for years wanted to de-fret it but only until now I truly had a reason."
"'Joyous Lake' is very different from the other tunes, " Rez notes. "It wasn't overtly 'fusion' and played out more like a jazz standard with beautiful harmony."
Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Resolution" seems the most unlikely selection of the album, given the original version's plodding bombardment of a slow groove. Here, RAAQ expands on the original song's essence. "It's such a harmonically captivating tune and Mahavishnu didn't improvise over that harmony, " Rez recalls. "I wanted to extend it. We came up with the idea of Stephan and I setting up the tune with an improvised intro and then having Bill solo over the unfolding of the melody. It builds very organically."
Bill Ware introduces RTF's "Medieval Overture" as if was written for him, and RAAQ's interpretation is strikingly gorgeous. Billy Cobham's "Red Baron" recalls RAAQ's take on "Resolution, " coming to the Spectrum classic slowly, then directly.
Larry Coryell's "Low-Lee-Tah" provides Rez a chance to shine in a duo with himself. "Larry sent me the accompaniment part which I transposed a perfect fourth lower to be played on Baritone guitar. I felt that would create more mystery within a guitar duo setting.
Intents and Purposes closes with Tony Williams' "There Comes A Time, " from The Tony Williams' Lifetime album, Ego. A trance-like tune that Rez makes his own with a fretless guitar rendition.
Abbasi's critically acclaimed albums have covered the gamut of stylistic possibility in a similarly original spirit as heard on Intents and Purposes. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, raised in Southern California, educated at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music (along with an Indian pilgrimage under the guidance of master percussionist, Ustad Alla Rakha), Abbasi's talents have previously found expression in four acclaimed recordings. 2009's Things to Come, with his boundary-breaking group Invocation, featuring an illustrious band of Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, Johannes Weidenmueller, Dan Weiss and Kiran Ahluwalia; 2010's Natural Selection, the debut by the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet (RAAQ); 2011's Suno Suno, Invocation's ecstatic nod to the Qawwali music of Pakistan, and 2012's Continuous Beat, Abbasi's first trio album with long-time cohorts John Hébert and Satoshi Takeishi. Throughout Abbasi's work, he taps fresh ideas with novel arrangements and inspiring collaborations.
"On this album", says Abbasi, "I didn't want to obscure the original character of the tunes with flashy arrangements, re-harmonizations and such. Supporting the compositions with an acoustic-centric vision while taking away their surface electronic identity was enough of a change. It's worth noting - often when jazz artists do covers they turn to pop and rock but this project is unique because not only are these covers within the jazz lineage, our renditions are polar-opposites of the originals. I should also add, the idea for this record arose due in large part to the fact that I had this group. Bill Ware, Stephan Crump and Eric McPherson are unique and as a collective that has a strong history, I knew we had the tools to approach the project with respect while moving these tunes into the 21st century. "
In closing, Abbasi states, "This album is not a historic perspective of the '70s jazz-rock scene. The compositions I chose were simply based on my aesthetic and a vetting process that in its own way became an exercise in liberation. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the process, I learned a lot and as it turns out, have a newfound appreciation for this music in any form."
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