Nasar Abadey and Supernova – Diamond In The Rough (2011)

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photo: http://www.nasarabadey.com

Washington D.C. percussion specialist Nasar Abadey has earned his stripes over decades performing with some of jazz’s towering figures like Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Fortune. These days he spends much of his time teaching his talents to others — he’s a professor of Jazz Percussion at John Hopkins University, and lends his time to area public schools — leaving the rest of his time leading his band Supernova. A group he founded in 1976, it’s gone through some incarnations (soprano/alto sax player Joe Ford is the other lone original member). Their first album Mirage didn’t appear until 2000 and a shift in the sound Abadey wanted to achieve finally culminated in the followup Diamond In The Rough, on the streets since April 12.

Supernova’s current make-up is a quintet, with Abadey, Ford, Gary Thomas (tenor sax), Allyn Johnson (piano) and James King (bass). Thomas and Johnson are well-known performers in the D.C. area, while Thomas is a fellow jazz educator at John Hopkins. Together, with some additional guest appearances on a few tracks (like Nasar’s son Kush Abadey on djembe), the group flesh out the leader’s vision embodied in his original compositions, plus the standard “There’s No Greater Love.”

The remaining six tracks distills Abadey’s youthful exposure to modal, free-form, post-bop and other forms. He doesn’t lead with a heavy hand behind his kit like Art Blakey did, but by picking the right players with whom he entrusts will take his songs where he wants them to go. The opening track “Diamond In The Rough”, supplemented by a flute and trumpet, does follow the Blakey style of jazz but immediately comes out the difference with the leader himself: Abadey is a very nuanced drummer who utilizes all parts of his set without bias, preferring to play thoughtfully and never over the top. It’s the kind of drumming where the focus is kept on the horn players and pianist, but had Abadey played more conventionally, you’d notice the difference right away.

The spiritual kind of modality that Abadey seems to relish is articulated best on “Sacred Space,” and a “Eternal Surrender” is a wonderful late night ballad and showcase for Thomas’ tenor sax. “Multi-D” reaches out to avant garde territory and features some very responsive and vital piano playing by Johnson. “The Covenant” sports a driving rhythm, Johnson’s percussive comping and a congruous dialogue between Ford and Thomas. Ford chose the soprano sax for the African-flavored “Notnu” and gives a precise, tender performance with it.

Six of the album’s seven tracks run long … a minute or two too long, to be truthful (“Eternal Surrender,” as good as it is, does kind of live up to its name). That being the only thing I can quibble with, Diamond In The Rough is an album worthy of the eleven year wait.

Stop by Mr. Abadey’s website over here.

[amazon_image id=”B004TVBHZ8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Diamond in the Rough[/amazon_image] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B004TVBI5C” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B002QQ8IO6″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00004SR31″ /]

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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