A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photos via & Flickr // Filter via Pixlr

Photos via & Flickr // Filter via Pixlr

A native of Karachi, Pakistan, Rez Abbasi spent his formative years in California, where he fell in love with the music of Rush, Led Zeppelin, and King Crimson. Before long, however, the young guitarist got his first exposure to jazz through the music of Joe Pass, and soon thereafter discovered Allan Holdsworth. Around this time, he made the decision to pursue the guitar, which led to studies at USC and the Manhattan School of Music, as well as a sojourn to India to study with the master percussionist Alla Rakha. Since graduating, Rez has lived in New York for over two decades. He has released nine recordings under his own name, and has collaborated on stage and in the studio with artists such as David Liebman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, and Kiran Ahluwalia.

Roman Filiu was born and raised in Cuba. The reedist comes from a musical family; his father is a musician and teacher of European classical music, and all of his siblings are also musicians. He studied the European classical tradition in the local conservatory, where he met extraordinary musicians like the pianists Aruan Ortiz and David Virelles, and subsequently moved to Havana to begin his career as a professional musician. He was based there for eight years, recording frequently and traveling internationally with a variety of projects including Chucho Valdes‘ “Irakere” band. Next, Roman moved to Spain, and began to apprentice under more elder statesmen like David Murray and Doug Hammond. Yet the reedist had his eyes on New York, and finally moved to the city in September of 2011. Although he’s only been here a short time, Roman has quickly becoming a part of the city’s vibrant music scene, performing with his own groups as well as those led by David Virelles, David Murray, and Dafnis Prieto, among others.

On Thursday, Rez and Roman bring a new, collectively-led band, CUBINDUS, to our stage. The two artists were kind enough to answer a few questions about the venture:


How did the band form? Where did the initial idea come from?

I met Rez during some regular sessions we were having in Astoria, Queens. The original idea was a trio and Rez suggested Aruan Ortiz on piano as the third member. Rez didn’t know that Aruan and I have known each other since we were eight years old! We attended at the same conservatory and Aruan was one of my little brother’s best friends. We played together during my stay in Spain either with my band and with some of his different projects.

Rez: I suggested getting a drummer because, between India/Pakistan and Cuba, there is so much rhythmic complexity that I felt we would be leaving a huge layer out with no drummer. I happened to be playing a bit with Michael Sarin, who is one of those extremely versatile players, at the time, and suggested him. Everyone was on the same page and it started like that.
How were the members of the group chosen? Please describe your relationships to each other and previous performance history.
Rez: Collectively we don’t have previous performance history. I suppose this is an NYC kind of phenomenon: we played a bunch of sessions with various combinations of players, and from there, gathered that this group would work well.
Tell us about the music.
Rez: The important thing with this group is that there are three composer:, myself, Roman and Aruan. We all are very much into the art of composition on its own terms. In other words, composing isn’t merely secondary to improvisation, it’s equally and often more important. If you listen to any of our albums, you’ll hear an overarching voice, sound and vibe. Fortunately, what we’ve composed for this group translates well as all of the players synchronize to each others ideas. I’m quite happy with the outcome, and look forward to recording this group. CUBINDUS is our attempt to merge Cuban, Indian and American elements, hence, CUB-IND(US).
Roman: Because we have three composers in the band, the result is a mix of textures, colors, and states of mind. In my case, I try to experiment and put together different ideas and concepts; I don’t have a specific way of doing things.
Rez: Also, for this show, we welcome another wonderful pianist, Sam Harris. We will focus on Roman’s and my compositions.