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Album Review

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 are long, looping lines that quote everyone from John Carter to Jim Pepper to Eric Dolphy and Ben Webster. His willingness to seek out the heart of dissonance inspires his bandmates, particularly on "The Cat's Back." From a nuanced, eerie wail to a Native American folk melody to smoky phraseology taken from "Chelsea Bridge," Surman pulls out all the stops and then puts them back in to make the tune whisper. Abercrombie doesn't exactly take a back seat on this date, but he does showcase his expansive knowledge of Tal Farlow's harmonic palette by playing extended chords either inside the melody or as a dissonant counterpoint to Surman. Other standouts include the title track with its strange, even alien, crosstalk between Johnson's bowed bass and Abercormbie's short, knotted leads. On Surman's ballad "Ogeda," too, Abercrombie investigates the manner in which the jazz tradition celebrates dissonant harmonies while using a kind of lyrical improvisation to keep the tune gently swinging. It's a solid session from beginning to end, but one still wishes Eicher would take his hands off the sound controls a bit, allowing some of the rawness that each of these players shows in live settings to enter the studio.


Born: 16 December 1944 in Portchester, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

John Abercrombie's tying together of jazz's many threads made him one of the most influential acoustic and electric guitarists of the 1970s and early '80s; his recordings for ECM have helped define that label's progressive chamber jazz reputation. His star has since faded somewhat, due largely to the general conservatism that's come to dominate jazz, though he has remained a vital creative personality. Abercrombie's style draws upon all manner of contemporary improvised music; his style is essentially...
Full Bio
November, John Abercrombie
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  • $21.48
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Nov 1992

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