on 1 January 2014
Rightly or wrongly I've always thought you could glean a lot about John Abercrombie's guitar playing from the company he's kept on record. For example his sympathy for and empathy with Kenny Wheeler's music is notable, while the trio he was in with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette back in the 1970s was for me always one of the most persuasive fusion acts. He perhaps owes something more to Jim Hall these days, but he's been his own man for years now, which means he's at a point where the slightest aural distraction risks missing something of his subtlety.
This quartet is I would argue one of the best bands he's led although that's not to say that the competition isn't stiff. This much is apparent through the deep listening going on in the group's rendition of "Melancholy Baby" the only non-group original on the album. The melody is only obliquely referenced by everyone apart from Abercrombie himself, but he's soon in a realm from which it seems the quartet might never return, at least coherently.
There's beauty here too, and even in the deepest passages of music, as per "Bacharach" where Abercrombie is at his lyrical best and bass player Drew Gress proves why he's such a frequent visitor to recording studios. Marc Copland is one of those pianists who's refined or at least deeply into refining his vocabulary to the point where he knows exactly what he wants to convey and doesn't waste notes in doing so.
Given the low key nature of this album, and indeed the inadequacy of such a term considering the subtleties of the music, drummer Joey Baron isn't so much a model of restraint as he is a master of colour and shading, and applying it just where it's needed, as he shows on Copland's darkly expansive "Spellbound" a title upon which it's apt to end this review as music as quietly compelling as this doesn't come along too often.
on 7 April 2014
I say old guys because that's what I am and have listened to John Abercrombie from the 70's. This quartet is smooth, tight and accomplished. It's not like the early material, being very laid back at times and if you like things a bit more experimental then maybe this won't do it for you. Production is second to none - a feature of ECM records. I really like it, but perhaps like them I've mellowed somewhat!