Rez Abbasi-Christian Howes Quartet 

Since arriving in New York in the late 80s, Pakistani-born, California-raised guitarist Rez Abbasi has quietly earned a respected place in the city's music scene: guitar aficionados admire his clean, sparkly technique, and his contemporaries in jazz (such as saxist Gary Thomas, trumpeter Tim Hagans, and pianist Kenny Werner, who've all joined him on disc) appreciate his deceptively clear-cut compositions and easy blend of jazz, ethnic influences, and guitar electronics. On his newest disc as a leader, the self-released Out of Body (starring horn men Tony Malaby and Ron Horton), Abbasi scales things down from the expansive canvas of his previous album, 1996's Modern Memory, but at the same time demonstrates even more clearly that he knows how to get what he wants from a band. For the quartet he brings to town this weekend, which has yet to record, Abbasi has made an inspired choice of partner: violinist Christian Howes, a classically trained prodigy with a colorful background of a different sort. In 1992, while in college in Ohio grooming himself for a career as a concert violinist, Howes sold LSD to a narc and spent most of the next four years in prison. But he practiced almost daily in jail, and played with incarcerated musicians from beyond the cloisters of the classical world--which inspired him to incorporate new influences in earnest, from jazz to gospel to rock. (In fact, he recorded part of his debut in lockup, and his second effort, 1998's Ten Yard, takes its title from the only patch of green grass at Ohio's London Correctional Institution--the lawn outside the "honor dorm," Howes's former home.) He emerged from prison with an unfettered and even dangerous approach to the violin--almost demonic and certainly electrifying, whether he uses an amplified instrument (as on his first three albums) or an acoustic (on a disc due out later this year). Some of Howes's fans have branded him "the Jimi Hendrix of the jazz violin," and though they obviously mean to flatter him, that epithet oversimplifies his technique and direction. He does share Hendrix's willingness to push the traditional boundaries of his instrument, however; not since Jean-Luc Ponty has a violinist ranged from pure classical to fuzz-tone rock to convincing jazz with such authority. Saturday, April 6, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 2128 1/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050.

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