Though hailing from Philadelphia, bassist Joshua Abrams first made his mark in Chicago. Performing since the 80s, he’s worked as a sideman (Sam Prekop, David Boykin's Expanse), participated in large ensembles (including Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, Chicago Underground, Town and Country), and led his own groups. Straying outside of the confines of jazz, he’s played with groups like The Roots too.
In 2002, his debut as a leader was released. Cipher was hailed by All Music as “Strange, mysterious, and stunningly beautiful, Cipher is a modern enigma.” Even with his myriad of collaborations, he also found time to work as a film composer (Life Itself and the Oscar-nominated Abacus, among others).
His ensemble, Natural Information Society, is a jazz group celebrating the sounds of indigenous music from around the globe. He performs on a guimbri, essentially a bass lute that can be traced to the Middle East and northern Africa. The group consists of some standard jazz instrumentation, including Ben Boye’s piano, a horn section formed by Ben Lamar Gay on Cornet and Nick Mazzarella on alto sax, and bass clarinet from Jason Stein. National Information Society also boasts not one, but two gong players. Lisa Lisa Alvarado handles one, along with a harmonium, while Mikel Avery mans the other, along with the flat-faced tam tam gong.
Abrams’ latest release with his group was released earlier this year. Mandatory Reality was recorded complete takes without the use of overdubs. Pitchfork called it “a minimalist mountain of an album, one whose slow pace and gradual changes prove unusually mesmerizing, even sublime.” Pop Matters notes, “As the ensemble moves from one track to the next, it feels like they are discovering something new about their compositions and ideas each time. It is this simple fact that makes Mandatory Reality such an enticing listen.”