Rez Abbasi Named 2021 Guggenheim Fellow

Mike Lawson • News • April 14, 2021

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi, one of the most celebrated artistic voices of his generation, has been named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition. He’s one of 184 artists, writers, scholars and scientists, 13 in the area of Music Composition, receiving this year’s award. A veteran of fourteen albums as a leader, his deep musicality has been applied with equal conviction to contemporary New York acoustic jazz, the Qawwali and Indian Classical traditions of South Asia and the heady fusion sounds of the 1970s, each time applying the filter of his own musical personality to deliver inimitable results.

“I am truly honored and grateful to be named a Guggenheim Fellow,” says Abbasi. “The award is a concrete affirmation that embracing my intuition and artistic values was the right thing to do.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship is one of the most distinguished awards an artist can receive. Since 1925, the Foundation has awarded nearly $400 million to more than 18,000 individuals. The Foundation offers “fellowships to exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions. After a rigorous review involving hundreds of distinguished scholars and practitioners, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees appoints Fellows on the basis of past achievement and notable promise for future accomplishments.”

Chosen from almost 3000 applicants, the 2021 Fellows represent a broad range of disciplines and pursuits. “A Guggenheim Fellowship has always been meaningful,” says Foundation President Edward Hirsch, “but this year we know it will be a lifeline for many of the new Fellows at a time of great hardship, a survival tool as well as a creative one. The work supported by the Fellowship will help us understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the Foundation to help them do what they were meant to do.”


Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is among a rare breed of artists that continue to push boundaries while preserving the traditions he has embraced. Consistently placing on DownBeat’s International Critics Poll alongside luminaries Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny since 2014, Abbasi continues to forge new ground with his many multi-dimensional projects.

“Abbasi is living, breathing proof that jazz music can be as vital and boundary-pushing as ever.” –

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, migrating to the vastness of Southern California at the age of four, schooled at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music, and undertaking a pilgrimage in India under the guidance of master percussionist Ustad Alla Rakha, Abbasi is a vivid synthesis of many influences. Making New York home for the past 25 years, he has developed a singular sound both as a composer and an instrumentalist.

Among Abbasi’s recent projects is a commission by the New York Guitar Festival to create and perform a live score to the 1929 silent film A Throw of Dice. His Silent Ensemble recorded the score and released the album in 2019. He also received two highly coveted composition grants from Chamber Music America in order to complete a trilogy of albums with his acclaimed ensemble, Invocation.

In 2018 Unfiltered Universe, featuring bandmates Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, was released as the completion of the trilogy. Like the previous two albums, Things to Come and Suno Suno, Unfiltered Universe received accolades worldwide. With fifteen albums of mostly original compositions, Abbasi’s wide-ranging projects continue to capture provocative sounds seldom heard in today’s music. In 2021 he is featured on a duo album White Lotus with Min Xiao-Fen.


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