If Rez Abassi's guitar playing and compositions seem to ring with more percussionistic rhythms than most, part of the explanation lies in the fact that he studied under Carnatic master Allah Rakha after attending the Manhattan School of Music. But there's another unusual factor among many here: he also de-fretted one of his axes to make a fretless guitar and most or all the odd bends and slurs you hear arise from that modification. There's a third factor: Intents and Purposes is a 'tribute' CD long overdue, a re-examination, finally!, of the jazzrock movement (fusion or whatever you want to call it) of the 60s and 70s, a collection of cuts from John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, and various other pastmaster firebrands.
Interestingly, Abbasi had completely ignored the mode while studying Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Miles (the father, ironically, of fusion), and others, curiously unimpressed and unattracted to the whumped-up electrified sounds even though his axe of choice is the electric. Then, one day, something shifted, and he noticed that beneath the blare and distortion lay some really great compositions. The further he listened, the more he dug what he was hearing. Unexpectedly, then, Rez transformed those oft tumultuous written gigs into much more chambery atmospheres abetted by vibes (Bill Ware), bass (Stephan Crump, a guy who's appeared on several CDs critiques in FAME), and drums (Eric McPherson, whom we've heard with Rob Derke and Fred Hersch).
In that last adjunct lies something much needed: more of the struggling vibraphone trying to keep afloat in modern times. Never a prevalent instrument, it's nonetheless suffered terribly for the last four decades, along with flute and trombone (the latter of which is now enjoying a comeback). Catch Ware's abstract solo in Hancock's Butterfly, and you'll understand why the axe needs more presence in the arena. Martino's Joyous Lake follows, and everyone gets a chance to adopt Oregon strains, pastoral while modern, sideways but highly decorous, Abbasi pointillistic, the rest of the band susurrant while hoppin'.
Rez definitely understands the complexities inherent in the era's work, as do his compeers, and moves between Klugh-esque cleaner-than-clean quotations, low profile camouflages, Szabovian slo-go, Towner-oriented pastoralities, and World influences. At no point does he dominate but instead shares all aspects of each cut with the rest of the ensemble, making for a set of works concentrated on the anthology of songs and their possibilities, not personalities expressed through chops. This will present the listener with a number of surprises, perhaps no more evident than in McLaughlin's Resolution, in which the harmonics are enriched to the roof, Ware going nuts on vibes. From start to finish, Intents and Purposes is an absorbing work.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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