The Third Quartet CD
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John Abercrombie's remarkable group floats perpetually between jazz and chamber music. Its elegant agile improvisation is constantly in movement. The level of interaction is the group's most outstanding attribute. Abercrombie, violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Marc Johnson often function as a string trio - but when Johnson locks in with Joey Baron's propulsive drums the group swings relentlessly.
Abercrombie's eight compositions here envelop two important compositions of new jazz that also reveal something about the quartets range and intentions: Bill Evans's pretty "Epilogue" (first heard in 1958 on Everybody Digs Bill Evans) and Ornette Coleman's galloping "Round Trip" (from New York Is Now, 1968). The quartet's scope runs from lyrical reflection à la Evans to post-Ornette free play. The CD also includes a soulful tribute to the late great Elvin Jones, one of the defining architects of jazz rhythm.
Of John Abercrombie, the Guardian recently wrote, "He has recorded for German label ECM since 1974. As complete a player as more famous contemporaries Scofield, Metheny and Frisell, he has a capacity for spontaneous melody-spinning that rivals all of them." This can be perceived both on his own ECM discs and those of Charles Lloyd, Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Jack DeJohnette, and others...
Mark Feldman came to Abercrombie's group for 'Open Land' in 1998 and has played on all the guitarist's ECM discs since then. Other ECM appearances include his recent leader debut, 'What Exit', and Abaton with Sylvie Courvoisier. Bassist Marc Johnson joined the Bill Evans Trio at only 24, and played with the great pianist until he died in 1980. For a decade, he worked regularly with Abercrombie in the trio with drummer Peter Erskine. Joey Baron's ECM work includes albums with Bill Frisell, Steve Kuhn, and John Taylor as well as with Abercrombie.
Personnel: John Abercrombie - (electric and acoustic guitars), Mark Feldman - (violin), Marc Johnson - (double-bass), Joey Baron - (drums)
There's something very special about this latest disc from John Abercrombie's quartet, but the whole thing's so understated that it's hard to put your finger on quite what it is. Certainly when listening through the album, with all its delicacy and fragility, it's hard to believe - and a testament to Abercrombie's driven band-leadership - that half of the group have had regular gigs with that convener of musical chaos, John Zorn.
It's the third album from the group Abercombie has been leading since 2000, and seems to mark a retreat from earlier excursions into freer territory; many tracks open with atmospheric introductions that seem unscripted, but which soon settle into more traditional jazz cycles. Of highlights there are many: the modal extemporizations of the opening ''Banshee'' which skid over bassist Marc Johnson's pedal note, setting the scene for the kind of quiet intensity that characterises the album, or the exquisite interplay between Abercrombie and violist Feldman on their stand-out arrangement of Bill Evans' little-known ''Epilogue''. Joey Baron rises to the formidable challenge of paying tribute to Elvin Jones, with echoes of the great drummer's stream-of-consciousness style and acute sensitivity on ''Elvin'', like all the originals on the disc, an Abercombie original.
It's nice to hear a group quietly forging new ground like this - that is to say, not by smashing away at the limits of modern jazz, but rather by gently coaxing them slowly outwards. More to the point, it's nice to hear such subtle and intimate music-making as on this record. --Matt Trustram
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Top customer reviews
It is a reasonable assumption that John Abercrombie did not have to mind these words of T.S.Elliot, from "Dry Salvages", the third of his "Four Quartets" when he recorded his latest, impressive, offering with his quartet, so inopportune are the sentiments. Perhaps more so than "Cat and Mouse" and "Class Trip", "the Third Quartet" is understated and, at first listen, unremarkable but repeated listens reveal the synthesis of Abercrombie's two main inspirations, namely lyricism and free improvisation, and the uniqueness of his guitar, violin, bass and drums quartet.
Opener "Banshee" is the wildest number and shows the Jekyll and Hyde aspects to Abercrombie is the space of a single song. The most obvious signs of these inspirations are the two covers, which are both highlight. Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip" swings like nothing else on the disc and Mark Feldman's violin in Bill Evans's "Epilogue" has an almost Japanese tone in its serenity. Although all four musicians are highly skilled, the versatile Feldman is probably the dominant force here.
Having started in restless, percussive but atmospheric fashion with scrapings of violin and peels of electic guitar, the album concludes with the peaceful "Fine", featuring overdubbed guitar reminiscent of Ralph Towner. As others have recorded, it is sometimes difficult identifying why Abercrombie's recent work is so good. And although it does not demand attention, it is very impressive in its understated way.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"The Third Quartet" picks up where 2004's "Class Trip" left off. However, the music here is more refined and this is simply because this particular quartet has been playing together for 9 years. This music is very hard to describe. I wouldn't classify it as free jazz, because there is structure to the music, but I wouldn't necessarily call this music bebop either. What I would call it is chamber jazz. It's a deicate balance of classical and jazz. The jazz aspect of this music is obviously within the improvisations, but the music follows more in the lines of classical. This type of jazz is something Abercrombie has been working on for many, many years. The instrumentation on this album as with the groups other two albums is quite unique: guitar, violin, bass, and drums. Mark Feldman plays violin and is one of the better violinist I've heard that can improvise in a jazz context. His ideas are always interesting and melodic and they add color to a piece. He definitely is one of the best jazz violinist I've heard. Someone like Regina Carter needs to look at what Feldman is doing and take notes. He's the new jazz violinist that people need to be aware of. Marc Johnson, on bass, has been around for a very long time. He has played with so many musicians, but I think his best early work is with pianist Bill Evans. Marc has also released some very fine albums under the ECM and Polydor labels, most notably the album "Right Brain Patrol" remains one of my personal favorites of Johnson's. Marc always provides great support to his bandmantes. Joey Baron, on drums, is one of the wildest and most original drummers of the last 15 years. He's been an active member in Bill Frisell's band and has been apart of John Zorn's group Naked City and has also played on countless John Zorn albums. Baron's work with Masada, John Zorn's group that blends traditional Jewish music with jazz, has been a very rewarding listening experience. Baron's style is one that is in constant motion. He doesn't stay in one spot to long and yet he provides this group with what it needs: a driving force to propel it.
"Third Quartet" is a good place to start exploring John Abercrombie's later work. It has all of the naunces and textures of an Abcercrombie album but with more of a chamber jazz leaning. Very highly recommended.
Cobham. I am not a guitarist. I can only say he has an incredible sense
of touch & dynamics. I recently had the pleasure of seeing him play with
this quartet in Birdland, NYC.They were fantastic. I thought 'Gateway II'
was one of my favorites of his. This is way up there (all this groups
recordings come highly recomended).from 'Cosmic Chicken (somebody please
release that)to Arcade,the organ trios, directions,etc..listen to this
man & the people he surrounds himself with. You wont EVER be disappointed.