Rez Abbasi: Why Me Why Them


Why Me Why Them


Sunnyside 1236


Things to Come

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Rez Abbasi (guitar), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax), Vijay Iyer (piano),

Johannes Weidenmueller (bass), Dan Weiss (drums)


Composed by Rez Abbasi


Recorded: Brooklyn, December 15-16, 2008, January 20, 2009


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

“Two theories exist,” Max Roach told drummer Art Taylor. “One is that art is for the sake of art, which is true. The other theory, which is also true, is that the artist is like a secretary. . . . He keeps a record of his time, so to speak." Guitarist Rez Abbasi explicitly steps into the second role here, entitling his CD Things to Come in commemoration of political changes underway while it was being made—in fact, the title track was recorded on President Obama's inauguration day.

Yet what musicians intend and how an audience hears are not always aligned, and this composition itself is likely to strike listeners as a majestic example of pure music, unfettered by the headlines and daily talking points. These musicians, the leaders of the South Asian tinge on the current NY scene, have worked together in many settings, and the result here is a collaboration that moves comfortably through various textures and moods. Despite the popularity of the world music flavor that sometimes surface in these artists' work, you will find little of it here. This track rather exists somewhere on the post-Trane to harmolodic continuum, and at least two train stops beyond Bebopland and Swingville.

The melody statement builds from solo bass to bass-and-guitar and then to trio before reaching its climax in an exciting dialogue which varies the mixture of sax, guitar and rhythm section in its invigorating juxtapositions. Abbasi and Mahanthappa present solos that balance rawness and intricacy, and Iyer effectively counters with a interlude that starts out brooding but gradually intensifies. Throughout it all, bassist Weidenmueller and drummer Weiss adapt smartly to the kaleidoscopic sound colors. This is a fine outing by a stellar band, but with all due respect to Mr. Roach, the last adjective you will think of while listening to this music is "secretarial."

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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