Flush with the attention he got for his role in furthering the “Indo-Pak” agenda in jazz alongside Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, the Pakistani-born, L.A.-raised Rez Abbasi expressed the hope he and his cohorts wouldn’t be pigeonholed as ethnic outliers. With Continuous Beat, a relentlessly probing trio effort featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi that closes with an uncommonly thoughtful acoustic reading of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Abbasi takes another bold step in resisting any stereotyping.
Coming on the heels of his Invocation quintet’s Suno Suno, which fused Pakistani Qawwali music and blues, and his Acoustic Quartet’s Natural Selection, which bridged Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Joe Henderson, Continuous Beat furthers what is turning out to be one of jazz’s most intriguing journeys. Abbasi’s first trio effort, it affords him the sonic real estate to blanket the music with electronic effects and variations in sonority and tone. Heated slabs of sound and raga-esque effects inform Keith Jarrett’s “The Cure,” while chiming chords light up Gary Peacock’s ambitious, 12-tone “Major Major,” another vehicle for what became Jarrett’s Standards Trio.
Not to be lost in the sound is Abbasi’s shrewdness as an arranger, particularly as a negotiator of rhythmic and harmonic parts. That is revealed most winningly on the aptly titled original “Divided Attention,” on which he and Hébert, a perfectly matched partner with a rich tonal palette of his own, begin blithely out of step with each other. Continuous Beat, originally was to feature Paul Motian. Though he became too ill to participate, the late drummer’s presence is felt throughout, both in explicit ways (the inclusion of “Off Minor,” a favorite Monk tune of his) and implicit. While imparting a more kinetic approach to the traps, Takeishi is fully attuned to the subtle prods and sweeping strokes of the master.