Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is among a rare breed of artists that continue to push boundaries while preserving the traditions he has embraced. Consistently placing on DownBeat’s International Critics Poll alongside luminaries (friend of this proGram) Mr. Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny since 2014, he continues to forge new ground with his many multi-dimensional projects. He has established an enviable reputation over the course of fifteen albums as leader and years of touring internationally: not simply as one of the finest guitarists of his generation, but also as a musical alchemist with the ability to parlay his continent-crossing range of influences into consistently fresh and innovative compositions and reframings of the tradition. His deep musicality has been applied with equal conviction to contemporary New York acoustic jazz, the Qawwali and Indian Classical traditions of South Asia and the heady fusion sounds of the 1970s, each time applying the filter of his own musical personality to deliver inimitable results. Commissioned in 2019 to present a project on Django Reinhardt by the Freight & Salvage’s Django Festival in California, Rez boldly redefined his engagement by turning the focus away from Django, the codifier of the Sinti guitar vocabulary, and onto Django, the composer.
I had the pleasure of discussion the wonderful new release, “Django-Shift” which was released on August 28th via Whirlwind Recordings with Rez. First off, I always love when the artists I speak with is as energized by the conversation as I am. I could feel that energy when Rez picked up the call. We dive into how the album went from a moment of “Sure, I can play that gig”, to that eureka moment when he realized this should become a project. We talk how it he arranged the pieces for a contemporary trio featuring Neil Alexander on organ and electronics and Michael Sarin on drums. The results offer a fascinating and unique insight into an often overlooked aspect of Django’s genius, his skill as a composer. I think you’ll find that this conversation will lead you to want to give this album a bunch of listens, but it also may assist in opening your ear into the different avenues of many artists you think you love already…that desire to know more about the sound, the style the person or people is something I think Rez’s music, whether this album or one from the past does, it leaves that welcome mat out in from of the house…just knock.