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Joshua Abrams Natural Information Society

A local jazz-scene fixture diversifies.
Photograph: Lisa Alvarado Joshua Abrams
By Areif Sless-Kitain |

Bassist Joshua Abrams is best known as a consummate sideman on the local jazz scene, where he’s been a steady presence for the last two decades. But he’s a proven versatilist, as evidenced by stints with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and even the Roots, with whom he plucked upright years before they became a fixture of late-night television. Abrams continues to diversify, making the leap into soundtrack work with The Interrupters and Bill Siegel’s in-progress The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which he’s currently scoring. For the last few years he’s also increasingly committed himself to the guimbri, an African lute.

Represencing, his second solo album to feature the instrument (following 2010’s Natural Information), revolves around Abrams’s droning meditations and brings aboard several improvisers with whom he’s established a rapport over the years. Tenor saxophonist David Boykin guides the first half of the new LP toward two dynamic extremes, contrasting the free, spiraling “San Anto” with the hushed and nuanced “Moon Hunger.” Abrams’s wife, Lisa Alvarado, pumps harmonium throughout side two, laying down a mystical backdrop for an array of guests including Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker, who sidesteps his spidery trademark in favor of loose vamping on album-closer “Cloud Walking.”

An appearance at the Empty Bottle’s Adventures in Modern Music showcase is a prelude to a proper record-release party at the Hideout’s Immediate Sound Series, for which Boykin sits in. It’s an apt setting, though “Immediate” might be the wrong word to describe Abrams and the ever-shifting personnel in his Natural Information Society, whose entrancing grooves cast their spell slowly over time.

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