Rez Abbasi and R.O.C. Trio Grounded in Folk Tradition and Jazz Improvisation


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Sounds Mixed and Matched
Indo-Pak Coalition, a trio equally grounded in folk tradition and jazz improvisation, proposes a social pact as well a musical ideal. The groups name is partly self-descriptive the alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa is of Indian descent, while the guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan but it also carries an underlying message made all the more painfully relevant by events like the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Of course it might feel nave or presumptuous for any musician to propose answers to such entrenched and complicated problems. That could be one reason politics never came up once during Indo-Pak Coalitions performance on Tuesday night at Le Poisson Rouge. As the leader and spokesman, Mr. Mahanthappa kept his tone cordial, entrusting the music to make its own case for deeper accord.

Indo-Pak Coalition has a rewarding new album, Apti (Innova), featuring Mr. Mahanthappas compositions. Here the group opened with IIT, one of several pieces involving a dartlike melody over a rhythmic drone. Mr. Mahanthappa packed his solo with jagged yet fluent phrases, and Mr. Abbasi assumed a central role, dexterously shifting from single notes to arpeggios to full-voiced chords.

Mr. Mahanthappa and Mr. Abbasi both grew up in the United States, as did the groups tabla player, Dan Weiss. To a considerable extent they all approach the music of the subcontinent as self-conscious outsiders.

The sets centerpiece was something called Looking Out, Looking In, and it bore DNA traces of the great Indian jazz-fusion group Shakti. But elsewhere pains were taken to avoid old hybrids. The most jazzlike harmonic sequence arrived in Mr. Mahanthappas version of Vandanaa Trayee, by Ravi Shankar.

Indo-Pak Coalition isnt the only such endeavor for these musicians: Mr. Mahanthappa made one of the years best jazz albums with a looser group called Kinsmen, and Mr. Weiss recently released an adaptation of tabla repertory for drum set. This weekend Mr. Abbasi will introduce a group he calls R.O.C. the letters wonkishly stand for Realities of Chromaticism featuring his Indo-Pak colleagues, among others.

What distinguishes this group is its intimate scale, along with the equilateral bond of its members. Well before their closer, a fast-chattering tune called You Talk Too Much, the musicians had illustrated the sturdy elasticity of their alliance.

Rez Abbasi and R.O.C. perform on Friday and Saturday at the Cornelia Street Caf, 29 Cornelia Street, West Village; (212) 989-9319,

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