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Larry Coryell/Badi Assad/John Abercrombie: Three Guitars

This wasn’t exactly a matchup the players were dying for. In the liners, Abercrombie admits that he hadn’t touched his acoustic in three years and then says of Assad: “I wasn’t all that aware of her music.” Assad counters: “I didn’t know much about John.” But Abercrombie was excited to play with Coryell, Assad was excited to play with Coryell and Chesky was excited to get them all into a New York church in the middle of winter to record. So there it is.

Not surprisingly, the title is descriptive only part of the time. When all three guitarists get into the act, things tend to become tangled. Assad slips into the accompanist’s role, and when Coryell solos Abercrombie doesn’t really find a place for himself and vice-versa. When Abercrombie and Coryell jump in together, it’s hard to pick out Assad’s contributions in the thicket of plucked strings. So they break up into smaller groups, or Assad breaks out her multi-instrumentalist skills, which include kalimba, body and mouth percussion and, in one particularly disturbing moment, something called a copper flute.

Three Guitars still offers plenty of high points. Coryell’s bright and engaging tunes contrast nicely with Assad’s tart pieces and Abercrombie’s spacious, shadowy music. Their take on Abercrombie’s “Timeless” (with Assad on kalimba) is both balanced and gorgeous.

Originally Published