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July/August 2004

John Abercrombie Quartet
Class Trip
ECM Records

Class Trip (ECM) marks John Abercrombie's second studio go-round with this expressive, expansive band, a quartet featuring violinist Mark Feldman as front line partner to the guitarist. The rhythm section of drummer Joey Baron and bassist Marc Johnson complete the roster. The band has retained all the tension and energy of its debut recording, the ranging and often free-improvised Cat 'n' Mouse, while pursuing an altogether more melodic and focused program.

Feldman continues to be a great addition as he and Abercrombie continually provide softening counterpoint to each other's more acidic moments. More than once, Feldman acts like a portable string section, shading Abercrombie's solos with a quiet tremolo and giving the music a beautifully stylized, almost noir sound. A few tracks go for out-and-out power, but lyrical waltzes and ballads, like the title track, "Soldier's Song," or "Risky Business" give this recording its character. Throw in an engine firing like Johnson/Baron here and you have top shelf Abercrombie.

Originally published in July/August 2004
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