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December 2009

John Abercrombie Quartet
Wait Till You See Her
ECM Records

Guitarist Johnny Smith always had a soft spot for the Rodgers & Hart show tune “Wait Till You See Her.” Smith enjoyed playing it in a solo setting, fancifully arranged with raked arpeggios, a moving bassline and a dramatic shift in tempo. Listening to the title track on John Abercrombie’s new CD, it’s clear he’s a sucker for the melody too, though his quartet’s interpretation is lean and low-key, as soulful as it is insinuating.

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John Ambercrombie

Then again, that’s a not a bad description of the entire session, save for violinist Mark Feldman’s rhapsodic arcs and the sometimes kinetic interplay generated by Abercrombie, Feldman, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron. Apart from the Rodgers & Hart theme, all the tunes were composed by Abercrombie and are distinguished by his expert touch, from the languid, minor-key blues “Sad Song,” deftly accented by Baron’s fluttering brushes, to the album’s richly textured and aptly titled coda, “Chic of Araby.”

If Feldman is responsible for occasionally making the ensemble sound larger than it is—his double stops briefly suggest the presence of reeds or an accordion—he’s also once again cast as Abercrombie’s worthy foil, especially on the counter-riffing “Line-Up,” a reminder that you don’t need to chop away at extended chords to create some funk motion. In the end, while the eight performances gathered here provide plenty of room for soloing, nothing holds more rewards for the listener than the fully integrated (and exquisitely Baron-shaded) ensemble work

Originally published in December 2009
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