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Rez Abbasi & Junction: Behind the Vibration

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On the face of it, Rez Abbasi’s new CD appears to be the product of an ordered mind and an inquisitive nature-an effort, as the guitarist himself has put it, “to answer the question: What might a modern jazz album sound like in the hands of contemporary musicians employing a breadth of influences and current technologies?” Yet it’s easy to lose sight of that mission once premise gives way to performance and collaborative sparks begin to fly.

In fact, for all the thought that went into it, Behind the Vibration often packs a visceral wallop. The album, which marks the debut of Abbasi’s electric fusion quartet Junction, often derives a compelling intensity from its exchanges between the guitarist and saxophonist Mark Shim, keyboardist Ben Stivers and drummer Kenny Grohowski. Abbasi wrote each of the album’s eight tunes, but beginning with the opener, “Holy Butter,” it’s clear that he set out to emphasize the ensemble’s collective and propulsive strengths. Formidably driven and smartly punctuated by Grohowski, who plays a crucial role throughout the disc, “Holy Butter” is the first of several reminders that Abbasi thrives in percussive settings that demand quick musical wits. With Shim doubling on MIDI Wind Controller and Stivers contributing contrasting colors on Rhodes and Hammond B-3, “Self-Brewing” and other tracks are laced with evocative touches that point to fusion past without compromising the album’s forward-thinking global initiative. Debut session or no, Junction consistently comes across as a seasoned, venturesome ensemble with a bright future and an intriguing perspective.

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