On his eighth album as a leader, guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi turns to qawwali, the devotional Sufi music of his native Pakistan, for inspiration. Not that you'll hear anything here that seems to refer specifically to that music -- instead, Abbasi's goal was "to capture some of the power, passion, and joy of qawwali with an instrumental jazz group, without direct imitation." The result is certainly powerful and arguably passionate, but often feels more determined than joyful. Abbasi has all kinds of chops both as a player and a writer, and he puts them to heavy use on arrangements that are tight, complex, and at times almost forbiddingly chromatic: "Thanks for Giving" is particularly tightly composed, and interestingly enough, the melody and structure of its head both recall early-'70s Henry Cow. "Onus on Us" is similarly spiky and a bit more beboppish, and features an especially fine piano solo from Vijay Iyer. "Monuments" is an intriguing composition that starts out with two very distinct and almost independent rhythmic layers, then swings hard during the solos. Abbasi himself is a brilliant soloist, working in a variety of tones and textures, and the rest of his quartet is just as good. As impressive as this album is on a technical level, though, the average listener may find himself or herself starting to drift away before these very long tracks come to an end -- three of the seven clock in at over 11 minutes, and the others (except for the two-minute intro to "Monuments") average around eight. By the end, you feel as if you've spent an extremely intense hour in a rather stuffy room filled with a friend whose ideas are interesting, but who maybe could have stopped talking for a few minutes.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson