By Eric McDowell
Following up last year’s Intents and Purposes, an all-acoustic album of jazz-rock covers, Rez Abbasi is back with a new quartet for his Cuneiform debut, Behind the Vibration. Along with Abbasi on electric guitar, Junction includes Mark Shim on tenor sax and MIDI wind-controller; Ben Stivers on keyboards, Hammond B3 organ, and Fender Rhodes; and Kenny Grohowski on drums. In Abbasi’s own words, “Junction is where it all meets”—the breadth of traditions and genres each member brings to the quartet. “It is my most inclusive project to date in terms of engaging diverse musical influences and technology. For me, this is ‘music of now.’”
Opener “Holy Butter” provides a ready example, combining influences, according to the label’s press notes, from classical South Indian dance with piping hot guitar lines and irrepressible funk courtesy of Shim’s MIDI wind-controller. Elsewhere Shim’s jazz background comes through his tenor solos, as on the moodier second track “Groundswell” or on the short closer, “Matter Falls.” Though Stivers, who has an impressive pop pedigree, proves adaptable throughout—filling in for bass with his left hand or supplying atmospheric chords—he has no problem stepping into the spotlight. See, for instance, his Rhodes work on “Holy Butter” or his B3 feature on “New Rituals.” Similarly, while Grohowski’s experience in heavy metal lends his playing a certain robust precision that’s essential to Behind the Vibration’s overall power (a good example would be the burning “Uncommon Sense”), on tracks like “Inner Context” or “And I You,” he shows another, more reserved side.
A great album for fans of hard-hitting, rock-leaning fusion and funk.