Beginning in 1974 with his first solo recording for ECM
(“Timeless”), guitarist John Abercrombie has embraced various ways to augment
the sound of his instrument, experimenting with synthesizers in the 80’s (“Current
Events” “Getting There”) and recording albums in he 90’s with organist Dan Wall
(“While We’re Young”) and violinist Mark Feldman (“Open Land)” that created
arresting group dynamics and musical textures, yet never blurred the guitarist’s
tonal purity. His discography includes nearly 30 releases as a leader in
addition to his work in the group Gateway and countless collaborations with ECM
artists including Charles Lloyd, Jack DeJohnette, Marc Copland and many others.
Abercrombie gets back to basics on his heartfelt and buoyant
quartet recording, “Within A Song,” (ECM) paying tribute to his early influences by covering
iconic tunes by Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. The music that
spoke so clearly to Abercrombie in the 60’s is presented thoughtfully here,
with good feeling and a touch of wistful nostalgia. It’s brought to fruition by
the leader, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bass player Drew Gress and the remarkably
evocative Joey Baron on drums. With toned down tempos and gripping sonics,
Abercrombie often defers the lead voice to Lovano – the sweet tart notes jump
from his horn rat-a-tat style on the bravura mash-up, “Within A Song”/”Without
a Song” – while the guitarist toys with phrasing and subtle comps in the background.
But when Abercrombie’s on deck, it’s the masterful and tuneful fretwork that
energizes the recording. “Flamenco Sketches” radiates from Abercrombie’s new read
on the melody and the tune unfolds dreamily, its form laced with stunning interplay.
The quartet is in especially great form on Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” which
has a freer vibe, with unscripted solos that come together organically.
Abercrombie takes the profound melody of Coltrane’s “Wise One” and seamlessly
blends reverence for the source material with his effusive, joyful solo. The
album is rounded out with the cool blue swing of Bill Evans’ “Interplay” and
“Sometime Ago,” a sweet natured standard that connected the guitarist to the
Art Farmer-Jim Hall Quartet and here it’s played by Abercrombie and crew with
fond affection. (9 tracks; 61:15 minutes)
"Wise One," performed by John Abercrombie
Labels: Drew Gress, ECM Records, Joe Lovano, Joey Baron, John Abercrombie