John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming Starting the new year with, if not precisely a bang, a nevertheless unforgettable record whose strength lies in pristine lyricism, nuanced group interplay and writing that capitalizes on the entire quartet's appreciation of subtlety over gymnastics and refined lyricism over angularity, John Abercrombie's Up and Coming—ECM's first release of the year—is also founded strongly on the concept of relationship. The guitarist has been playing with Marc Copland since the pianist's days in the early '70s as a saxophonist before deserting it entirely for a career and discography that's as rich and rewarding as Abercrombie's…
This 3-CD set with recordings from 1978 to 1980, issued in ECM s acclaimed Old & New Masters series, returns some historically-important material to the catalog, namely the albums Arcade, Abercrombie Quartet and M. The quartet with Richie Beirach, George Mraz and Peter Donald John Abercrombie s first touring band as a leader was the group in which the guitarist defined some priorities, moving away from a jazz-rock period into a more spacious, impressionistic and original music. Abercrombie and pianist Beirach had a strong musical rapport as improvisers and wrote almost all of the band s book between them. George Mraz and Peter Donald provided imaginative support. For this edition the recordings - made in Oslo and Ludwigsburg and produced by Manfred Eicher were remastered from original analog sources.
The follow-up to While We're Young has a less melodic, more loosely structured feel, as if it were all kinetically inspired and freely improvised within various structures. The intuition or trust level of electric guitarist John Abercrombie, organist Dan Wall, and drummer Adam Nussbaum is clearly evident: They are listening, reacting, and responding to each other from measure to measure, and that is the basis for their music making.
This 1993 recording of John Abercrombie's trio with a guest appearance by British saxophone giant and composer John Surman is, without question, a trademark ECM session. There's the spacious, pristine, icy production by label boss Manfred Eicher from his studio in Oslo. Next, all the players are ECM staples with the exception of Erskine, who plays everything from pop jazz to classical music. But there are many things that distinguish it as well. For one, Surman is playing here with a fire not heard since the early '70s. Whether he is blowing a baritone or soprano saxophone or his bass clarinet, he's cutting loose.
There is an easy familiarity among the participants on the John Abercrombie Quartet's 39 Steps. Each of its members – guitarist, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron – have played together in various situations for decades. In the case of Abercrombie and Copland, their association goes back some 40 years to Chico Hamilton's touring group and the fusion band Dreams. Both Baron and Gress have played with the guitarist and pianist on and off since the '90s.
John Abercrombie's group recordings on ECM have often come in threes. The Third Quartet, his latest featuring violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron, is an apt (and obvious) title, but hopefully not a sign that this is the end of this group's winning streak. Since forming in 2000 it's evolved into one of the best—if not the best—groups of the guitarist's long career.