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Rez Abbasi's Invocation -- Suno Suno (2011)

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Rez Abbasi There's a trance-like euphoria surrounding this emotional, at times indescribably spiritual endeavor.

Rez Abbasi, leading a group that also includes Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer, found inspiration for Suno Suno from Pakistani Qawwali, a devotional Sufi music that was popularized in the West by singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. As with traditional gospel music, Qawwali is often populated with heart-filling themes of uplift, but it also includes these thrillingly circular, repeated melodies—something that gives the music passion and joy, but also this enthralling, almost hypnotic power.

Qawwali is the jumping off point, though, not the end point for Abbasi and Co. From there, Invocation (the same group that shaped 2009's Things to Come, Abbasi's terrific blending of South Asian and avant-jazz) sets about concocting new stirring new hybrid. It all starts with the Pakastan-born Abbasi, who's lived in the states since he was four. Over that time, he has taken in a variety of key influences on the guitar, from Montgomery to Jim Hall to Metheny. More important, in particular as it relates to this album, must have been the impact of Coltrane—especially in the way this group often works toward an almost unbridled release without losing musical coherence.

That was the risk as Coltrane struggled through his spiritual awakening on the career-defining A Love Supreme, and it remains so here—as Abbasi tries to blend his native country's praise song forms and jazz. Invocation's exultations, in particular on the more overtly Qawwali-influenced numbers like “Thanks for Giving" and “Onus On Us," walk the same fine line—and they emerge with a statement of similar artistic breadth, religious wonder and musical intrigue.


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