Whether it’s jazz, go-go, punk or funk, Washington, D.C., is known for producing outstanding drummers. Chocolate City is also known for producing excellent jazz artists, who can seem to shake that often limited moniker: local artist. Nasar Abadey is both, a stellar drummer, who can drive almost any ensemble, and a musician, who has played with heavyweights like Gary Bartz, Lester Bowie and Malachi Thompson, but he is relatively unknown to most jazz listeners.
Abadey and his band Supernova, which the drummer has fronted since 1984, have a new album, Mirage, which collects the leader’s crafty compositions and brilliant playing from sessions recorded between 1991 and 1999.
Drawing influencing from powerhouse drummers such as Tony Williams, Roy Haynes and Jack DeJohnette, Abadey knows how to swing hard, but not in a manner that’s bombastic and obtrusive. Instead, he builds tension behind billowing solos, as on rolling “Brick By Brick” where he pushes Joe Ford’s darting soprano saxophone to the upper limits.
Never on cymbal ride autopilot, Abadey’s rhythmic pulse is highly elastic, spacious and driving, which allows Supernova’s superb group empathy to shine through. Each member contributes not only noteworthy solos and top-notch musicianship, but also cogent compositions. The drummer’s “Mirage,” with guitarist Gerry Eastman and Ford’s soprano sax swirling in union in front of Abadey and bassist James King’s rolling rhythmic bed, presages the modern bop brilliance of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner.
On the only nonoriginal, John Coltrane’s “Ascension,” the late unsung tenor titan Carter Jefferson spews out blistering wails atop of King’s arco bass, Eastman’s blues-drenched guitar and Abadey’s forceful drumming.
Sadly, Mirage may very well be one of the last recordings of Jefferson, but here’s hoping that it will be the first of many for Abadey.