Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Abbasi was removed at the age of four to the vastness of Southern California. Having studied at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music, along with a pilgrimage in India under the tutelage of master percussionist, Ustad Alla Rakha, Rez Abbasi is a vivid synthesis of all the above-stated influences and genres. Making New York City home for the past 25 years, Abbasi has developed a unique sound both as a composer and an instrumentalist and is considered by many to be one of the world’s foremost modern jazz guitar players. He has performed throughout Europe, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and India with many jazz greats, with whom he has also recorded, including Grammy winner Ruth Brown, Peter Erskine, Kenny Werner, Barre Phillips, Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, Billy Hart, Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith, Gary Thomas, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mike Clark, Tony Malaby, George Brooks, Ronu Majumdar, Kadri Gopalnath, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Marilyn Crispell, Greg Osby, Howard Levy, among others.
Rez is also a member of many other projects. He is musical director, arranger, and producer for Indian/Canadian multiple Juno-award-winning vocal sensation Kiran Ahluwalia. He also plays an integral role in Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition and Kinsmen Ensemble.
With twelve albums of mostly original compositions under his belt, Abbasi continues to find new groups of musicians to help his musical vision come to life. Abbasi’s most recent album, Unfiltered Universe (Whirlwind Records) finds him back in the company of his group Invocation. The band is comprised of jazz luminaries Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, Johannes Weidenmuller, and Dan Weiss while adding cellist Elizabeth Mikhael. It’s the third album of the trilogy Abbasi that began with Things to Come (2008). Unfiltered Universe received “top 50 best albums” from NPR along with countless positive reviews from around the world.