Rez Abassi

Because jazz sitarist and guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan, studied in India, grew up in Los Angeles, and paid his dues in New York, it's safe to say he's the prime example of what it takes to have a genuinely global sound. Trying to hang a rudimentary genre handle on Abbasi is nearly impossible, and listening to his aptly titled new album, Bazaar, won't help much either. But why try? Sonically it's an urbane pleasure, and if you can't pigeonhole it, that's a good thing. His eloquent, concentrated playing style is descended from fretboard icons such as Pat Metheny, and he blends aspects of soul with Indian music, postbop, and hints of Ornette Coleman-style free jazz as well. On this album, his fifth, Abassi has penned killer compositions such as "You People," which is as musically rich as it is pensively cool. His song "Mid-Life" undulates with frenetic, snapping saxophones, distorted psychedelic guitar work, the captivating Indian vocal melisma of Kiran Ahluwalia, and a bluesy melody line recalling Santana or Frank Zappa. Although Bazaar is not "easy" jazz, neither is it lofty nor "difficult" for its own sake. It's a heartfelt, provocative, and rewarding platter that just might rehab the once-edgy, now-besmirched image of fusion. — Mark Keresman


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