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Music Journeys: Rez Abbasi

Rez Abbasi

New York-based guitarist Rez Abbasi and his band Junction bring their jazz-rock sound to central Ohio this evening for a performance at Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington. 

In the latest installment of Music Journeys, Abbasi explains how his love of music began and why collaborations bring out his best.  

Holy Butter plays...

Throughout his career, Rez Abbasi has tried to be creative, blending his experiences and influences while finding fresh orchestrations to present his music through. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Abbasi and his family left when he was 4. They spent some time in Kentucky but eventually settled in Los Angeles. Playing the piano and flute early on eventually took a back seat to another instrument. 

"When I was 11, my uncle brought home a couple guitars, and there was something physically about the guitar that I loved," Abbasi recalled. "You can really hold it in your hand and use your whole body with it. Until I was 16, I wanted to be a rock star. But I discovered jazz when I was 16, and essentially quit my rock band overnight. My mom is always trying to understand how that miracle happened. I got into jazz and just sat home and practiced for six hours a day. After that, I realized that I can take this into college."

After attending the University of Southern California, Abbasi moved to New York in the late 1980's studying jazz and classical music at the Manhattan School of Music. A pilgrimage to India added another layer to his sound. His current touring group Junction and the band's Behind the Vibration release takes him back to his first love - the energy that comes out of rock music. 


Uncommon Sense plays...


"I decided to actually do a fusion record that was actually fortified with synths and heavier drumming and rock guitar and all that," Abbasi said. "So, there is a lot of electricity in this record."


Groundswell plays...


For Abassi, there's also a magic in crafting sounds without words.


"Not to offend anybody who's a vocalist because I love vocals also, but I tend to think less vocals favors more imagination," Abbasi said. "I don't mean vocals, I mean lyrics. When you have lyrics, it's directing you and pointing you all the time toward someplace. Instrumental music can't do that. I like that vagueness. Anybody can interpret it through their lens. You can own the music very quickly without lyrics being imposed onto you. You bring what you want to it, as well as it feeding you.


And I You plays...


"The ballad And I You, there's something very moving and heart-wrenching about that tune for me," Abbasi reflected. "One critic thought it sounded a little dark. I completely disagreed with him. To me, darkness and beauty and all those things cross over a fine line. It depends on the mood you're in, and that's kinda the idea." 

New Rituals plays...  


Abassi's career over 12 full-length recordings has been defined in part by different collaborations.

"I definitely enjoy it because it gets me out of my own head space," Abbasi said. "Everybody has a world of experiences behind them, and they bring it up to the plate. To see all the stuff on the table and sort of pick from it what might help the composition is a great place to be actually." 

Inner Context plays...

While certain things about the business can dampen his enthusiasm at times, music remains nurturing and moving for Abbasi. He hopes listeners take away something similar from his own recordings and performances.  

"A sense of life and a refreshing quality that they may never have heard before and never knew existed out there," Abassi said. "And genuinely, just hope I guess. I know it sounds a little cliche. But it's a matter of tasting it and being there and listening and focusing a little bit. Especially in the world of phones and social media, things are always pulling us away. When you go to a music show, it shouldn't be any different than going to a film. You're there and you're focused and you're listening. It's not background music. I would just like them to trust what we are going to do and where we are going to take them, and hopefully when they leave they will be somewhat more motivated to do what they do in life." 

Abbasi has several other ventures. His first book, New Dimensions in Jazz Guitar, recently came out. He just finished a film score. And he's considering a tribute to Django Reinhardt.   


Matter Falls plays... 

Abbasi's show tonight at Natalies Coal Fired Pizza starts at 10.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.
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