Rez Abbasi - Suno Suno (Enja, 2011)
Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi has been developing a unique conception of the song form and improvisation that draws from a wide variety of influences, including Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music. Joining him on this album is a band consisting of: Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Vijay Iyer on piano, Johannes Weidenmuller on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. For the most part, the album is made up of lengthy, dynamic suite-like performances, beginning with Thanks for Giving," stately up-tempo beginning building to a percussive vibrant piano solo that makes use of the entire instrument. The song builds dynamically with an extended guitar solo with drum encouragement. Alto saxophone builds in, swirling over choppy percussion and melding like a crucible of musical tones. Onus on Us" takes a mellower mid-tempo tact, with guitar breaking out for a probing solo, patient and making great use of space. It is a well textured, lengthy solo developing into percussive piano and drum interaction. Swirling saxophone moves in progressing into a quiet fire before making way for a bass solo. After a short piano introduction, Monuments" envelops a throbbing intensity, with a repetitive grove setting a foundation for strong saxophone over rumbling piano. Mahanthappa breaks out for a complex saxophone feature, with the full band following suit. Abbasi breaks out for a mix of heavy repetitive riffs and heady soloing. Nusrat" has a melodic opening featuring low-end that leads into a taut and pointed guitar solo that builds to a fine climatic sequence. Wailing, almost pained saxophone drawn from deep inner strength envelops the music projecting deeply visionary music, propelled by excellent drumming. A rippling piano, bass and drums opening ushers in Overseas" which quickly becomes a feature for pianist Vijay Iyer. His piano rolls, ably supported by bass and drums, before saxophone drifts in gradually in a patient and mysterious manner enveloped by smears of abstract guitar. Mathanhappa probes the music quietly on the sly before building to a fast and strong conclusion. Funky piano trio with guitar slithering out at a medium tempo opens the set closing Part of One." A lengthy guitar solo patiently builds an architectural statement while piano and percussion weave intricate dynamic feeling like textiles of sound. The alto saxophone really builds to a snake-charmer intensity, with exotic tones as the full band brings the music to a conclusion. In their attempt to meld the traditional music of northern India into a jazz context, the group has woven together a great set of performances. The compositions are memorable, leading to thoughtful and inventive improvisations and the playing is sterling all around.