Music is wide and music is expansive. It has pockets and nooks and crannies where some of us may never trod. We face it with open ears but there’s just no way for us to appreciate all of it for it comes from so many homes, so many reaches, so many sources of inspiration. They’ve been there all along, just waiting for us to uncover them. These are those moments when some of us discover Led Zeppelin, or Marley, or even Miles for that first time. Or Kraftwerk later. Or Willie Nelson. Every fan of music has those moments of discovery of the little nooks and crannies in the music, if we’re hungry enough having them.
While this group always sounds great no matter the compositions, there’s just something about how this quartet explores these songs that are fairly well known in the jazz canon. They’ve always been compositions that welcome taking a stroll with the melody hand in hand, even outside of the pocket of the compositions’ original electronic 70s sound. The fact that Abbasi could grab hold onto that idea so cleanly and really explore with these tunes so satisfyingly makes this an album worthy of special praise.
Bill Ware has made for some of the cleanest vibes playing one may hear all year, or at the very least will make other vibes players sweat under the collar a bit. His accenting playing is maybe even stronger than his soloing, providing just the right tone and shading to these songs.
What more praise can be heaped on Stephan Crump that hasn’t been said before? He plays, as always, like he’s having a total blast. These songs seem just made for his joyous sustaining beat on the bass, but he seems a little more subdued playing on this album than in other recent releases with his own Rosetta Trio or alongside Vijay Iyer. Crump serves the songs like no other and Intents and Purposes rises above in part because of this.
However, it’s the click-clack brilliance and variation that Eric McPherson displays on the drums on this album that gives Intents and Purposes its snap. McPherson’s choices on the kit lets these songs breathe and grow into new beasts while still maintaining the energy they always had. He’s busy without being overwhelming, and he should be that busy. He’s doing a lot so well and so subtly, one would hardly notice how great these songs are while McPherson is working so hard.
In essence, this quartet sounds great, as one would expect they would. They’ve made yet another album together that you should hear, as you should expect. But the decision to play these songs that so many know so well and make them even more satisfying in 2015 in an entirely different accomplishment that rises above already high expectations. Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet’s Intents and Purposes is an album of songs you’ve heard already and you’ll still want to hear these guys tackle them over and over again simply because they play them just that well.
Intents and Purposes, the latest album from the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, is out now on ENJA Records.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.