The influx of creative musicians with ties to foreign lands has brought a small but growing and dynamic movement of players with roots in the Indian subcontinent blending Eastern sounds with jazz improvisation. Add to pianist Vijay Iyer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa the name of Rez Abbasi, guitar and sitar-guitar, who in addition to his own recordings is also part of the Sunny Jain Collective. While his recent Zoho debut CD, Bazaar, is perhaps more conventional than the work of Iyer and Mahanthappa, it is also somewhat more reflective of the music in India, Pakistan, etc.
Although Abbasi, born in Pakistan but reared from childhood in Los Angeles, shows the slight influence of several guitarists, his rhythmic and harmonic touches result in an individual sound. The music offered by Abbasi’s core trio with organist Gary Versace and drummer-tabla player Danny Weiss has the sound of a slightly askew jam band channeling jazz, ragas and a bit of rock. The opening title track is quite descriptive of a bazaar, with a swirling profusion of elements (a diversity of cultures and sounds) capped by the explosive playing of guests Mahanthappa and tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas. The saxophonists, particularly Mahanthappa, offer a dizzying burst of blowing that moves outside without breaking the overall mood. The addition of several tracks with singer Kiran Ahluwalia, Abbasi’s wife, finds the core group sound taking on an otherworldly cast akin to traditional Indian music, yet with a bursting-at-the-seams tinge. On “Mid-Life,” the third track with Ahluwalia, the group is rejoined by Mahanthappa and Mommaas, the latter on soprano this time.
Late alto saxophonist Joe Harriott, the nearly forgotten British avant-gardist from the ’60s who also dabbled in Eastern sounds with his Indo-Jazz Fusions recordings, probably would have been pleased and amazed by this infusion of musical elements.